Farmers spend time educating Congress
During a late March lobbying trip to Washington, D.C., Oklahoma Farm Bureau leaders spent much of their time educating public officials and staff on agricultural issues. The effort was necessary as the new administration is populated with key staff members possessing little agricultural knowledge.
"We're a small minority but we produce 100 percent of the food and fiber necessary to run this country and we think that's pretty important," said Mike Spradling, Oklahoma Farm Bureau president.
He noted Oklahoma is fortunate to have a congressional delegation that understands rural and agricultural issues, but that is not the case for many of those working in the nations capitol.
"We're very fortunate to have people like Congressman Frank Lucas who have a common sense approach to agriculture, energy and other key rural industries," Spradling said. Lucas is the ranking minority member on the House Agriculture Committee.
"Congressman Lucas told us he has had a lot of work to do educating other members of the agriculture committee and the new members of the Obama administration," Spradling said.
Among the issues farmers are concerned about is the EPA proposal to require livestock producers to obtain Title V operating permits under the Clean Air Act, the so-called cow tax. Lucas has introduced HR 1426, which will stop the EPAs proposal which was estimated to cost producers roughly $88 per animal.
Farm Bureau leaders also thanked Congressman Dan Boren and Congresswoman Mary Fallin for continuing to work on the farm truck weight issue. They authored HR 1220, which would change the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations definition of a commercial motor carrier from 10,001 pounds to 26,001 pounds. Senator Jim Inhofe recently introduced similar legislation and received appreciative support from the farm group.
During an exclusive meeting with Rep. Collin Peterson, D-MN, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Spradling was told the cow tax is not going to happen.
"We are pleased to hear Chairman Petersons reassurance the cow tax is a non issue," Spradling said. "It was a dumb idea that just did not make sense."
The Oklahoma group was buoyed by news there will not be any reduction in the agriculture budget this year.
"We are pleased to know the administration is not going to punish an industry that is not mired in financial scandal in need of a multi-billion dollar bail out," Spradling said.
In addition to meeting with congressional leaders and staff, the farm group met with USDA crop insurance officials including Bob Murphy, deputy administrator for insurance services. Murphy assured the group there would be no budget cuts and he would continue to look for ways to improve the federal crop insurance program.
Approximately 70 Oklahoma farm leaders made the trip to Washington, D.C., March 29 to April 2.