By: Congressman Charlie Melancon
My colleague, Congressman Charles Boustany (R), and I recently hosted “Farm Day 2008” in Louisiana, where we heard from members of the state’s agricultural community.
The one issue that came up over and over again during the program was getting past partisan bickering in DC and getting a farm bill passed now.
Wallace “Dickie” Ellender III, a sugarcane grower from the small town of Bourg, summed up the frustration the state’s farmers are feeling over the slow-moving farm bill.
He said at the forum, “Farmers hear people from Washington talking about funding sources, budget gimmicks, tax loopholes and stimulus packages, but what we really hear is that action on this vital farm safety net is being put off so that some people can push each others political buttons.”
“Farmers want a strong bill that gives them a chance to do a little more than survive from crop to crop. A farm policy that makes it possible to pass the family farm down to the next generation,” Ellender continued.
That’s exactly what I intend to do.
Lawmakers should not play politics with the nation’s food supply. The farm bill should not be about an advantage in the 2008 elections or political posturing. The farm bill should be about Republicans and Democrats coming together to provide a workable policy for the men and women who provide food and clothing for us all.
Last week, Chairman Colin Peterson of the House Agriculture Committee tried to get the farm bill process rolling again by offering a counter-proposal that would appease objections voiced by the Administration.
While Louisiana’s farmers expressed gratitude for the attempt to kick-start the farm bill, growers are less than enthusiastic about the package put forth. They are concerned it cuts too deep and leaves them too vulnerable to issues out of their control.
Mark Keenum, the under secretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm and Foreign Agricultural Service, attended our “Farm Day” event. And I hope he paid close attention to the farmers’ suggestions for moving forward. There is nothing more important to the welfare of the nation than being able to feed ourselves.
The clock on passing a farm bill is running out. The time has come for us all to come together in a bipartisan and bicameral way to find the funding needed to keep the farm safety net strong.
Digging in our heels now and refusing to budge would be like biting the hand that literally feeds us.