Take Farming out of Farm Bill?


He's been a part of Farm Bill talks for decades, but never before has John Hansen seen this, as the House fails to enact farm policy time after time.

"Our farmers work hard, take a lot of risk, assume a lot of variables and we deserve to have a Farm Bill in place," the Farmers Union leader said.

But farming may be secondary. Food stamps are a bigger expense in the package.

Some Republicans want deeper cuts to what they see as a bloated welfare program. But many Democrats say cuts go to far.

So why are food stamps part of the farm bill anyway? State Ag Director Greg Ibach explains that it's about bringing urban and farm state lawmakers together.

He said, "If we have a large urban population in Congress, one way to gain their votes on the farm bill is to have food stamps tied together, so they were merged to gain a coalition to move forward."

Ibach says this is a time for Republicans and Democrats to put party labels aside, saying farmers need a national policy.

"You may vote against some narrow principles you have, but vote for the greater good," Ibach said.

John Hansen, of Farmers Union credits Nebraska's delegation including Rep. Adrian Smith for supporting the bill. But he says they need to convince other Republicans to follow suit.

"Rural Republicans in the House of Representatives have to go to counterparts in the tea party and bring these folks on board," Hansen said.

They could split food stamps from the farm bill, at the risk of losing urban support.

Or as they did a year ago, they could kick the can down the road and extend the previous bill.

If they do nothing, things would revert to the 1949 law.

Advocates for Nebraska agriculture agree farmers need the certainty of a new long–term policy.

Greg Ibach said, "This is what's good for the country."

He says American consumers may take for granted our low prices for food and says passing a farm bill will help ensure stability.