97.3 F
Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Farm bill advocates to Congress: Get a move on

Related stories

Chase Scholars accepting community service requests from seniors

ARTESIA -- Artesia High School Class of 2024 recipients...

Council approves pay increase for police, fire departments

Artesia fire and police scored raises at the Artesia...

Caverns announce new policites to help limit fire risk

CARLSBAD — Due to high to extreme fire danger...
Listen to Story

The House Agriculture Committee recently delivered a draft farm bill. It was eight months after the old farm bill, about to expire, had to be extended. This $1.5 trillion, 942-page tome has a lot to like, but it’s missing some key provisions important to New Mexico. And it’s hung up in partisan scrapping.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and House Dems chided the committee for cutting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, by $30 billion over 10 years. The program (formerly food stamps) helps more than 40 million low-income families nationally and upwards of 530,000 in New Mexico.

U.S. Rep. Gabe Vasquez, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, complained about “House Republicans’ partisan approach to the Farm Bill that would exacerbate food insecurity in New Mexico’s second congressional district, where one in four children are food insecure.”

SNAP benefits in the state would decline by $340 million, he said.

Another sticking point is that the bill is missing a provision that keeps acequias eligible for insurance, which is important in a time of drought-caused lower crop yields. The New Mexico congressional delegation is going to the mat on this one.
Vilsack also opposes a restriction that he says would tie the hands of the Commodity Credit Corporation in responding to natural disasters affecting farmers and instead shift the responsibility for disaster assistance to Congress, Source New Mexico reported.

“There’s no assurance that such bills get passed,” Vilsack said. “And secondly, oftentimes Congress underfunds those bills, as was the case so recently with the 2023 situation disasters.”

House Ag Chairman GT Thompson, a Pennsylvania Republican, said in a statement that the bill makes “historic investments” in agriculture. Regarding natural disasters, he said, “The Committee is reasserting Congress’ authority over the Commodity Credit Corporation, which will bring reckless administrative spending under control and provides funding for key bipartisan priorities in the farm bill.”

The Senate, even slower than the House, recently released summaries of key provisions of its farm bill but not the full text of a bill or its estimated cost. It would boost SNAP eligibility. Thanks to Sen. Ben Ray Lujan, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, acequias would be eligible for the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, which insures farmers who aren’t eligible for other kinds of federal crop insurance.

Each party accuses the other of trying to slow or derail the bill.

Thompson believes, from the large number of favorable statements from advocacy groups, that the House bill has broad support. But in reading through the statements, I find they’re less a full throated endorsement of the House bill and more of a comment on what they like along with a nudge to finish. Between the lines what I saw was great frustration with the time this bill has consumed and great care to not offend either party.

For example, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association likes the focus on voluntary conservation programs and animal health provisions.

But many groups want to see a sense of urgency in Congress. “It’s too important to wait,” said the American Farm Bureau Federation. Both the National Cotton Council and the U.S. Peanut Federation pleaded with Congress “to move forward in a bipartisan manner.”

Larry Reagan, president of the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau, wrote in a recent op ed about how his own participation in farm bill programs, to the betterment of his business and his land. Stepping lightly to avoid treading on partisan arguments, he begins by saying, “I can’t stress enough how vital it is that Congress swiftly pass a farm bill this year.” He ends by asking readers to contact their elected officials and “urge them to pass a farm bill now.”

In other words, stop arguing and do something.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Sherry Robinson is a syndicated columnist whose work is distributed by New Mexico News Services.)

Join the Artesia Daily Press Newsletter

Stay informed with the latest Artesia news and updates, directly in your inbox. Subscribe now!


Latest stories