Iowa Congressional leaders place pressure on Republicans for farm bill


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One agricultural expert at Iowa State University says the country would take a step backward if the U.S. House of Representatives don’t pass the proposed farm bill by the end of the year — a view also held by Iowa congressmen.

William Edwards, an economics professor with a focus in agriculture at Iowa State, said if the farm bill doesn’t pass the House of Representatives by the end of the year, farmers would have to refer back to legislation from the 1940s.

“Agriculture then was totally different than it is now, and nobody wants to go back to that,” Edwards said.

Because of this concern, Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa, and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, held a media conference call hosted by Obama for America on Monday morning and blamed House Republican leadership for failure to pass the Senate farm bill and extend the wind-energy tax credit.

“This will be the first time we won’t have gotten a farm bill [passed],” Boswell said.

The bill is focused on helping rural communities through agricultural, social, and environmental programs. The existing agricultural act will expire Sept. 30.

Boswell said the immediate concern is because when Congress convenes again, focus will shift away from the farm bill and toward deciding whether or not to pass an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts.

Harkin stressed the importance of the wind-energy tax credit, contending that without the tax credit, factories in Iowa will have to look at laying workers off.

“[Workers are] wondering if they are going to have a pink slip pretty soon,” he said.

Tim Hagle, a University of Iowa associate professor of political science, said much of the argument over the wind-production tax credit is a result of the increasing national debt.

“The increasing concern with the debt and deficit means that something has to be cut to bring the federal budget under control, and this is something that many Republicans feel can be cut,” Hagle said.

Harkin said there is more behind the farm bill than just benefits for farmers.

“What’s at stake here is whether or not we are going to meet our needs as a nation,” he said.

Criticism was also placed on the possibility of a Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan leadership for the failure of the bill.

“They are going to hold the farm bill hostage to the Ryan budget,” Harkin said.

Shawn McCoy, a spokesman for the Romney campaign in Iowa, disagrees and says GOP presidential nominee Romney recognizes the importance of agriculture to the nation’s economy.

“Gov. Romney has been such a champion of promoting export opportunities for Iowa farmers so they can get more access to international markets,” McCoy wrote in an email.  “Gov. Romney recognizes the importance of the farm bill and the need to get it right — without allowing it to lapse.

He’s also concerned by the effect that the Obama administration’s crushing onslaught of regulations is having on agriculture, and as president, he’ll work to relieve these unnecessary burdens.”

The Obama campaign responded by saying that President Obama has always worked hard to support the agricultural business across the country.

“Since Day One, President Obama has worked to build stronger and more diverse rural economies through investments in renewable energy, manufacturing, education, and agriculture,” Elizabeth Purchia, the press secretary for the Obama campaign in Iowa, wrote in an email. “He is standing by farmers through the drought, advocating for a strong safety net and urging Congress to pass the farm bill so that U.S. agriculture continues to experience one of its most productive periods in American history.”

Despite the many sticking points over the farm bill and the wind-energy tax credit, Harkin and Boswell implored the House of Representatives to pass the bill now.

“To me, it’s a disgrace that we failed to lead on this,” Boswell said. “We’ve just got to do this. It’s the right thing to do.”

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