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Iowans hope to see passage of a new farm bill

BY JULIA DAVIS | SEPTEMBER 27, 2013 5:00 AM

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With harvest season right around the corner in the country’s third-largest agricultural output state, Iowans are keeping a close pulse on the progress of a new farm bill that is in the works on Capitol Hill this week.

The original 1933 passage came about as a response to the Great Depression.

While a new farm bill traditionally passes every five years, one year ago Congress decided to pass an extension, now set to expire on Sept. 30.

Now, seemingly all eyes are on Congress to negotiate new legislation before this deadline.

The new bill is largely composed of funding for the food stamps program, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

As 80 percent of the resources for the new bill currently go towards SNAP, many Republicans in the House of Representatives are looking to split the current piece into two separate bills — one for agriculture and one for nutrition.

Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, an opponent ofthe split, said he believes it’s time to get serious about passing a comprehensive bill.

“Right now, House leadership is simply playing games with the farm bill, Iowa farmers, and those who rely on nutrition assistance,” Loebsack said in a statement. “This is not a time for political shenanigans, and there is no reason we should not already be in conference with the Senate.”

Steve Swenka, whose farm is near Tiffin, expressed similar frustration with the way Congress has been handling the bill.

“It almost seems like they’re not giving us their due time or not paying attention to the needs of the farmers,” he said.

Concerned about the needs of farmers not being met, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a statement that he is in favor of the bill passing so Iowa farmers can have certainty in the future and be able to plan for the upcoming crop years.

For Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, the issue of food stamps in the bill is of vital importance.

“We have more than 400,000 Iowans today who don’t have enough food every day, so it’s really important that we have a farm bill that includes making sure people that are hungry have the food they need,” he said.

In a statement, Gov. Terry Branstad said he hopes Congress and the president will work together to pass a farm bill that serves in the best interests of Iowa’s hard-working farmers as well as the taxpayers responsible for funding it.

But before the bill can pass, Congress will have to negotiate through many financial hurdles. However, Iowa Farm Bureau President Craig Hill says that the alternative is a mistake that would create problems for everyone.

“It’s costing taxpayers and agriculture by not getting this reformed,” he said. “This is just kicking the can down the road; it’s just bad for all the parties involved. There’s no winner in this right now.”

In the statement, Loebsack said a passing would bring economic vitality among the state’s agricultural sector.

“Our farmers, rural communities, and economy are depending on a commonsense, practical farm bill [that] helps keep our economy strong and creates jobs far beyond the farm.”


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