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Karl Guenther Column: Tax dollars at work on United States Farm Bill

by Dan Cash

There’s good news out of Washington. Unless, of course, it’s much ado about nothing, as is often the case.  This time we’re looking at - - or maybe I should say looking FOR movement in the House of Representatives on a new Farm Bill.  You may recall a Senate approved version last year, which went nowhere in the House.  Then the Congressional session ended and so we start all over.  That’s the rule, and there might be a good reason for it, although I don’t see why our Congress people couldn't just go with the flow.

At last report, in late April, Frank Lucas in the House, and Debbie Stabenow in the Senate were saying they would mark up the new Farm Bill effort this month - May.  They’re in a bit of a rush now, to have it passed and signed by the President before the extension of the old farm bill runs out in September.  Apparently, developing legislation is something like developing  a field crop.  Start in the Spring, add in occasional factors to cause it to grow, and the harvest in the Fall. I know the folks in Congress take “Markup” as a matter of routine, but I become a bit skeptical when I consider what that means.  By Definition, “Markup” describes the process by which Committees and Subcommittees “Debate, Amend, and Rewrite” proposed legislation.  I guess that’s why they jump in in May, in hopes of getting a viable farm bill by September.

There’s another element of the contemplated new Farm Bill, that’s of particular interest around here. The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, etc., has been focusing on specialty crop priorities for the new Farm Bill. Subcommittee Chairman Austin Scott, representing specialty crop country in Georgia says growth in specialty crops will play a significant role in the continuing economic recovery in this country.  Specialty crops, overall, according to ranking Subcommittee member Kurt Schrader of Oregon, make up nearly half the domestic farm gate crop value  The bottom line here is, according to American Farm Bureau vice president Barry Bushue, the new farm bill should provide new programs for fruit and vegetable farmers to not only ensure a stronger national economy, but also benefit the physical health of the entire nation.

What the Agriculture campaigners are asking, quite simply, is extending some of the federal programs presently benefiting producers of corn, wheat, and soybeans, to the producers of fruits, vegetables, horticulture/nursery crops and floriculture.

Meanwhile, news out of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, takes note of an ongoing study of the possible causes of the demise of the honeybee hives. The Executive Summary of the report runs eight pages, without saying much, if anything new, as far as I could tell. The report suggests disease, parasites, malnutrition and so on might be responsible.  And still the study group felt compelled  to issue a disclaimer to the effect that all the stuff in the report does not necessarily reflect policies or positions of USDA, EPA, or the United States Government.  As the roadbuilders say, “Your Tax Dollars at Work”.

Karl Guenther is a retired Kalamazoo farm broadcaster and can be reached at khguenther@att.net. He is a member of Michigan Farm Bureau and an emeritus member of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting.