Monday, August 13, 2012

Farm Bill politics: Obama says U.S. will buy meat, blames Ryan for lack of bill; incumbents feel heat

Obama speaks in Council Bluffs today.
(Register photo by Bryon Houlgrave)
President Obama is announcing today that the Department of Agriculture intends to buy up to $170 million of pork, lamb, chicken and catfish to help support farmers suffering from the drought. The food purchases will go toward "food nutrition assistance" programs such as food banks. Reuters reports "The president will also direct the Department of Defense to encourage its vendors to speed up purchases of lamb, pork and beef and freeze it for later use." (Read more)

Today in Iowa, a key swing state, Obama gave U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan partial blame for Congress' failure to pass a Farm Bill with short-term relief for farmers, and called Mitt Romney's running mate the “ideological leader of the Republicans in Congress,” Jason Noble reports for the Des Moines Register. Obama also criticized Romney for favoring expiration of tax credits for wind energy. (Read more) A campaign spokesman replied, "Paul Ryan hails from an agriculture state and supported disaster relief, and the truth is no one will work harder to defend farmers and ranchers than the Romney-Ryan ticket." When a reporter asked Ryan about drought relief, which the House passed but which died in the Senate because of the Farm Bill impasse, he declined to discuss it, Steve Peoples of The Huffington Post reports.

Ryan's selection has made it less likely that a new Farm Bill will pass before the election, writes Chris Clayton of DTN/The Progressive Farmer: "Despite increasing pressure to adopt the legislation to help rural America cope with the drought, the Farm Bill now becomes an even more political document." (Read more)  While the drought is not the president's fault or a problem he can cure, "It is a far bigger issue for Barack Obama than Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney," says the Chicago Sun-Times. "Corn is the biggest crop in the U.S., and the price impacts a variety of domestic and international markets." (Read more) However, Obama's "promising help and compassion" in Iowa shows the advantages of an incumbent, McClatchy Newspapers reported.

The lack of a new Farm Bill has also turned up the heat on congressional incumbents in farm country. "Farmers are complaining loudly to their representatives, editorial boards across the heartland are hammering Congress over its inaction, and incumbents from both parties are sparring with their challengers over agricultural policy," Jennifer Steinhauer writes for The New York Times. "This year’s Farm Bill was unlike any before it. While the House Agriculture Committee signed off on a measure, its substantial cuts to food programs alienated too many Democrats. And its cuts to those programs, as well as to some forms of farm aid, were not enough to appease the chamber’s most conservative members." (Read more)

No comments: