Kansas ag leaders react to farm bill




Special to The Telegram

It was Kansas' own Bob Dole who welded food stamps and farm spending into one bill.

That was the 1970s. The Republican Kansas senator and George McGovern, a South Dakota Democrat, formed an unlikely alliance. But the pairing helped gain support from urban legislators for agriculture subsidies, along with rural support for food programs.

Dole, 89, wasn't available to comment on how the House separated the two, ending the longtime union between rural and urban interests. It's the first time, in fact, that food stamps haven't been part of the farm bill since 1973.

Stripped down to just "farm" legislation, the measure passed in a party-line vote, 216 to 208.

Only 12 Republicans voted no on the measure, including Big First District Republican Tim Huelskamp. Republican representatives Kevin Yoder, Lynn Jenkins and Mike Pompeo voted for the measure.

It's unclear how the Senate will proceed. Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, the chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, called the House measure "not a real Farm Bill and an insult to rural America."

Here's what other Kansas agriculture leaders had to say:

* Steve Baccus, president of the Kansas Farm Bureau:

"We still believe splitting the farm bill is not a good idea. There are many reasons for this measure to garner support from both rural and urban interests. Past bills that have included both farm policy and food assistance have allowed that. The bills previously proposed save billions of dollars in farm programs, but it is critical to agriculture to preserve a workable and affordable safety net through crop insurance.

"We question whether the will and the trust is present within the House and on either side of the aisle to do that in a split fashion when food assistance is left out of the debate. However, we may get the chance to find out."

* Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.):

"Farm Bills are never easy. I hope at the end of the day, we can provide our farmers and ranchers with certainty."

* Donn Teske, president of the National Farmers Union:

"It's obvious to me that the intent of these actions by the leaders in the House, to separate the nutrition program and the permanent farm law, is to do away with all farm programs, the good as well as the bad.

"Prices are better now over the past couple of years and, regretfully, we have a very short-term memory in this regard. I know for a fact that there are farmers still farming today that would not be on their farms if it wasn't for the farm programs being the difference in a farmer's ability to create a positive cash-flow for their lending entities not that many years ago."

* Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Wichita):

"I could not support the previous Farm Bill because it was barely a 'Farm Bill,' as it was primarily a food stamp bill. While this new farm-focused bill is far from perfect, it is an improvement that I can support."

* Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Holton):

"Every American and their family depends on our hardworking farmers and ranchers to provide a safe, reliable, and abundant food supply. As someone who grew up on a Kansas dairy farm, I know our agriculture producers need certain and stable policy from the federal government to do their jobs.

"Our current agriculture policy is inefficient and outdated, and I supported the Farm Bill, because I refuse to accept the status quo. The House bill eliminates direct payments, improves crop insurance, and saves taxpayers nearly $20 billion. This is progress, and will allow us to come together with the Senate and create a better system than we currently have today. Doing nothing, yet again, would have been irresponsible and put our food security at risk."

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