Iowa Public Television


Farm Bill Listening Sessions Begin

posted on May 7, 2010

In addition to environmental degradation, the oil spill poses a political threat for President Obama, who in March, reversed a campaign promise by opening up some U.S. coastal waters to off-shore drilling. But the president hopes to keep promises made to constituencies that will have a huge say in fall congressional elections.

With health care reform secure in the rear-view mirror, the president now has set his sights on new regulations for the financial sector, measures addressing global climate change and an overhaul of the nation's immigration policy.

And with that ambitious agenda as a backdrop, Congress is about to begin the monumental task of writing the next Farm Bill.

Farm Bill Listening Sessions Begin Farm-state lawmakers met in Iowa's capitol city of Des Moines last week to launch the long and meandering path towards the next federal farm bill.

The omnibus spending package, which covers everything from farm credit to food stamps, traditionally faces a myriad of lobbyist groups and countless farm bill listening sessions.

Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa: "What are the biggest challenges you face as family farmers and ranchers?"

The current $284 billion farm bill, approved in 2008, expires in September 2012. Members of the House Agriculture Committee hope to avoid disagreements that delayed passage in 2008 when Congress was forced to override President Bush's veto.

Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Oklahoma: "President Bush was a good friend but he was wrong on that one."

Congressman Frank Lucas, the ranking Republican on the House Agriculture Committee, acknowledged if history is any indication, the content of the next farm bill is unpredictable.

Deficits remain a glaring concern for policymakers during the coming years. Skyrocketing national debt will likely affect the farm bill budget as the Obama Administration heads into a 2012 reelection year. But farmers testifying to House lawmakers urged further tweaking of everything from milk payments for dairy farmers to conservation programs.

Congressional leaders expect to continue the first round of farm bill hearings across the country in the coming weeks but actual legislative progress on Capitol Hill could be two years away.

Tags: agriculture Congress government news oil policy Tom Vilsack