Montana Farm Bureau President Bob Hanson heard Farm Bill updates, and talked trade during the American Farm Bureau Council of Presidents in Washington, D.C. July 10-12.
“It was exciting we were in Washington when the House Agriculture Committee, in a 35-11 vote, approved the Farm Bill. On Tuesday, Rep. Frank Lucas, chair of the House Ag Committee, had spoken to us about what the committee was planning for the Farm Bill. He indicated their version would cut substantially more than what the Senate version had already trimmed, which was $23 billion. Apparently, coming to a consensus on the bill was quite an undertaking, as there were 109 amendments to the bill for review,” Hanson said.
Hanson said that time is of the essence. “There are only 14 days before Congress’ August recess, so the House needs to move quickly to approve the bill,” said Hanson. “President Obama must sign a farm bill into law by September 30. Farm Bureau is pleased by the bi-partisan effort that went into this bill, providing farmers with the risk management, conservation plans and trade tools necessary to make plans for farming in the coming years.”
In addition to learning about details on the Farm Bill, the Farm Bureau presidents, who were holding crucial meetings in Washington, heard several pertinent speakers.
Kevin Brady, chairman, House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee, spoke about how the U.S. is being left out of most of the bilateral trade agreements. “He indicated there are more than 200 trade agreements between different countries, but the United States at this point is only involved in one, which really is surprising and not good for agriculture,” Hanson notes. “We had a discussion about the RAMP Act, which creates money to improve and develop port facilities. There is apparently money for this, but unfortunately that money is not going where it needs to be, including ports where Montana farmers export 60 percent of their wheat.”
Hanson said especially interesting were speakers for the talk, “Field to Market: The Sustainability Story of U.S. Agriculture.”
“The organization has studied the environmental footprint of six crops—corn, soybeans, cotton, potatoes, rice and wheat—over the past 30 years,” noted the White Sulphur Springs rancher. “These detailed studies show most of these crops have actually reduced their environmental footprint due to plant breeding and genetic engineering, except for wheat, which is lagging behind in genetic research. I found it interesting that those five other crops, which have seen a lot of technological advances, showed reduced environmental impact, but Montana’s main grain crop which is far behind in any genetic modification, hasn’t.”
During his trip to D.C., Hanson visited with Montana Senator Max Baucus and Representative Denny Rehberg. “I talked to both of them about Farm Bureau’s thoughts on the Farm Bill, and visited with Congressman Rehberg about the benefits of trade with Cuba. Senator Baucus had visited Cuba in the past and sees the value of trading with that country, as we are that country’s physically closest trading partner.”
With a heat wave sweeping the U.S., much of the talk was about weather. “Many Midwestern farmers are very concerned about their crops,” said Hanson. “They don’t think their corn is going to make a good crop this year, or if they will even have a crop, because it’s been so hot and dry. While we were at the meeting, the southeast apparently had some rain, so some of those farmers were feeling more optimistic.”