House Aggies make short work of organizing
By Larry Dreiling
The entire hearing took just 15 minutes, but the House Agriculture Committee held its organizing business meeting for the 113th Congress Jan. 23.
Chairman Frank Lucas of Oklahoma highlighted the work of the committee in the last Congress and, with Ranking Member Collin Peterson of Minnesota, introduced new committee members.
"I am proud of our efforts and I thank every member who played a part," Lucas said of the committee's work last year. "We provided valuable oversight of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure that our agricultural producers are not burdened with unreasonable and costly regulations.
"And, we advanced a strong, reform-minded, fiscally responsible farm bill during a Committee markup that demonstrated the true spirit of bipartisanship. We worked together to make certain policy was responsible to the taxpayer and worked for all producers in all regions of the country."
While the 112th Congress failed to pass a new farm bill, Lucas called the new Congress a "new opportunity" to reauthorize a comprehensive five-year farm bill. "I pledge to work with the Secretary, Ranking Member Peterson, members of this committee, my House and Senate colleagues, and all interested parties to complete our work and ensure our investment in American agriculture. It will take all of us working together to get it done."
New rules of the committee were enacted that included placing the text of bills online no fewer than 24 hours before a business meeting.
Meanwhile, over on the Senate side of the Capitol, Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada announced Jan. 22 he was committed to making a new farm bill a priority legislation for the 113th Congress.
Reid introduced the Senate-passed version of the farm bill as one of several privileged, top priority bills, which Senate Agriculture Committee chair Debbie Stabenow of Michigan said underscored Reid's "support for and commitment to enacting a new five-year farm bill.
"I applaud Sen. Reid's leadership and commitment to getting a five-year farm bill done to provide certainty to the 16 million Americans working in agriculture," Stabenow said. "Last year we were able to pass a farm bill with overwhelming bipartisan support, saving more than $23 billion in taxpayer money and reforming farm bill programs to be more cost-effective and market-oriented.
"Unfortunately, the House didn't bring the Farm Bill to the floor. Majority Leader Reid has demonstrated that the Senate will once again make supporting our nation's agriculture economy while cutting spending a top priority."
The Senate farm bill, better known as the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act, cleared the Senate by a 64-to-35 margin on June 21, 2012. The bill was designed to consolidate programs and save over $23 billion by making programs more cost-effective. The bill and the bipartisan way in which it was passed gained praise by senators on both sides of the aisle and by national media outlets.
In a statement, Stabenow said she is committed to convening a committee mark up as soon as possible, to produce an updated version of the farm bill, which could then be substituted for Reid's placeholder bill.
Larry Dreiling can be reached by phone at 785-628-1117, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org