Farmers to Congress: Farm Bill is Economic Stimulus

January 29, 2008

Washington (Jan. 29, 2008)—Farmers and ranchers from across the country are urging Congress and the President to quickly pass a strong new farm bill as part of their economic stimulus agenda.

“When our manufacturing sector went into a tailspin earlier this decade, the Wall Street Journal reported that a strong agriculture sector was helping hold the overall U.S. economy together,” said Tommy Hoskyn, a farmer from Arkansas. “We know from recent experience that sound farm policy keeps agriculture strong and that helps steady the overall economy.”

Currently, the President and Congressional leaders are discussing the need for an economic stimulus package that will help avert a recession. While details are still being worked out, lawmakers plan a stimulus package that will be more than $100 billion and will not be subject to budget offsets under new PAYGO requirements.

“Given the seriousness of the situation, Congress and the Administration are planning to pass a stimulus bill that is unpaid for and whose impact on the economy is uncertain,” explained Mark Williams, a Texas producer. “But lawmakers should still cover the basics and pass a farm bill that is fully paid for and whose economic value is both tested and proven.” Williams added.

Some Administration officials have said they would recommend a veto of a farm bill including tax increases.

“Fortunately, 84 Senators are on record in support of a farm bill that includes responsible pay-for provisions without raising taxes,” said Robbie Robbins, a grower from Oklahoma. “My state is represented by two of the most conservative senators in the United States Congress who would never vote to raise taxes and both strongly supported the farm bill,” he added. “The tax increase argument against the House bill is one thing, but if folks begin using this argument against the Senate farm bill, it would strike me as an excuse to kill the bill or force deep cuts.”

Seventy-nine Senators voted to approve the Senate version of the farm bill which included Finance Committee tax provisions. Five other Senators who were unable to cast their vote that day also publicly stated their support for the measure.

“The Administration proposed $8.5 billion in new funding above the current budget to be met under the Farm Bill,” said one Kansas farmer, John Thaemert. “The Senate Finance Committee package is one way of responsibly paying for these new needs.”

“It would be grossly unfair to try and balance the farm bill budget with all of these new needs on the backs of farmers and ranchers,” added Dusty Tallman, a farmer from Colorado. “Without an increase in overall funding, all of these needs would force deep cuts to the safety net which is already facing a drastically reduced budget.”

“The safety net for farmers and ranchers under the next farm bill will make up less than one quarter of one percent of the total federal budget, but that small investment would keep the rural economy sound and help steady the overall economy, said Jessie Hobbs, an Alabama farmer. “I hope that protecting the economy takes priority over Washington just drawing more ideological lines in the sand.”

“People want Congress and the Administration to work together to get things done,” North Carolina producer Ronnie Burleson explained. “If the Senate pay-for provisions are included, the farm bill should enjoy the same broad, bipartisan support in Congress and of the President as it did in the Senate. Given how close we are to planting season and the overall state of our economy, I certainly hope so.”