Conaway, Noem: Convince House majority to vote for farm bill
August 3, 2017
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, and Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., pointed out at a farm bill listening session in Minnesota today that only about 35 members of the House are now from farm districts, and that rural members will have to convince enough urban and suburban House members to get a majority of House members to support the next farm bill.
The statements were significant because a number of attendees at the farm bill listening session at Farmfest in Morgan, Minn., told a panel of 11 House members that the nutrition and conservation titles are vital to making the argument that the bill has provisions for the general public, not just farmers.
Noem, who has left the House Agriculture Committee to take a seat on the Ways ad Means Committee, noted how few rural districts there are left, and said she talks about the bill "from a national security standpoint."
Conaway also noted that he has to "convince" the members from urban and suburban districts to vote for the bill.
Minnesota Farm Bureau President Kevin Papp said it is important to connect both food and weather to the farm bill, noting he had weather-related crop loss this year and that "I will be able to farm again next year because of it."
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During consideration of the 2014 farm bill, the Republican leadership separated the nutrition title from the farm bill and held separate votes, but then had to put the bill back together for the Senate to consider it.
Both Conaway and House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said they are determined to finish the next bill before the 2014 bill expires on September 30, 2018, and preferably this year. But Peterson said meeting that schedule '"depends" on scores from the Congressional Budget Office.
Of the 11 members who traveled to Minnesota for the event, Peterson singled out Rep. Dwight Evans, D-Pa., for attention. Peterson noted that Evans made the trip even though he had to deal with a canceled plane and does not have a single farmer in his district, which encompasses northwest Philadelphia and suburbs.
"There is a direct connection between farmers and consumers. They need each other," Evans said, noting that he is on the House Agriculture Nutrition Subcommittee.
Over a two-and-a-half-hour session, a series of farm, nutrition and conservation leaders asked for the continuation of programs in the farm bill. Beginning and organic farmers were more prominent than commodity group leaders. Several meat industry leaders testified about the need for both animal disease prevention and vaccine programs.
There were disagreements about whether crop insurance subsidies should be capped, with several speakers emphasizing the importance of helping beginning and smaller farmers.
At the end of the event, Conaway noted there were differences and that it would take the "wisdom of Solomon" to write the bill.
But speaking of himself and Peterson, Conaway said, "You've got two CPAs. We are going to get this thing done and done on time if either of us have anything to say about it."
Conaway concluded with his usual note of concern about the moral condition of the country.
Citing founding father John Adams, who said that only a moral and religious people can self-govern, Conaway asked whether, when people ask America to be blessed, "Can we bless the killing of 57 million babies in the last 44 years?"
He also said that people "deify" entertainers in Hollywood and expressed concern about the breakup of families.
Noting that he lives by the Judeo-Christian "code," he told the attendees, "You and I have to step into the breech."
–The Hagstrom Report