Farm bill agreement only hope for what ails Congress

10/04/2013 11:02:00 AM
Tom Karst

Without a budget in five years, Congress has funded programs with a series of continuing resolutions.

When President Obama was elected, Denham said the president called the $9 trillion U.S. debt “un-American.” Now it is $17 trillion, he said.

House Republicans will never agree on Senate’s Democrats desire for a debt ceiling with no cap, he said.

So if Republicans and Democrats can’t come together on the simple issues - a delay in Obamacare - how will they solve the looming monster of the debt ceiling debate?

It’s hard to envision how that will get done.

Once past the debt ceiling debate, Denham predicted the House and Senate would eventually hammer out a farm bill that will be supported in bipartisan fashion in both chambers. The only drama, he said, would be if the nutrition title in the farm bill is a three-year bill or a five-year bill.

“If it is a three-year bill, that means it is going to be separated from the ag portion of the farm bill,” he said.

The biggest issue for Denham - and arguably for the indusry - is immigration. Denham said that issue will need a push to get across the finish line. The issue doesn’t have a deadline, and that makes it easy to ignore. Once expected to be taken up early in 2013, then before the August work period, it still awaits action.

“Immigration, if it doesn’t get slotted, if it doesn’t become a big issue, it will never get taken up,” he said.

Denham faulted the leadership of Democrats and Republicans in the so-called “Gang of Eight” who have let the immigration debate flounder.

In particular, he called for those lawmakers to publish their proposal.

“Introduce your bill! You have it ready for six years!” Denham said. “Let’s get something out there we can be for,” he said.

In the end, Denham said immigration reform is needed and both parties need to focus on it.

Speaking to United Fresh Oct. 1, Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., and ranking member of House Agriculture horticulture subcommittee, said the farm bill might be a path where Republicans and Democrats learn again to work with one another. A successful farm bill could be a path to camaraderie, he offered.

That’s a rosy view, but we will take it on faith.

But if the farm bill flops, where does that leave America?


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