Real ag agenda seems to be football and pheasants

Sometimes Capitol Hill apples are too easy to pick. This is one of those times.

On March 15, the U.S. House Ag Committee approved and sent a three-and-a-third page letter to Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, that notes its “recommendations… with respect to the suite of policies within the Committee’s jurisdiction” for the “fiscal year 2012 budget cycle.”

Drain the “suite” gibberish from the letter and its purpose is singular: Here’s what House aggies will do to help Ryan piece together a 2012 federal budget that will “keep American agriculture and rural communities strong and our citizens healthy and safe.”

The agenda

First thing, claim its signers, committee chief Frank Lucas of Oklahoma and ranking member Collin Peterson of Minnesota, will be “oversight of regulations that affect jobs and the economies of rural communities.”

If you don’t know what that means, you haven’t been paying attention to the hearing schedule of the Ag Committee since Republican Lucas took over.

Recent hearings have featured a review of USDA oversight of biotech seeds, slowing the implementation of new commodity trading rules under 2010′s banking reform law and, as noted on the Committee’s website, a “Public hearing to consider reducing the regulatory burdens posed by the case of National Cotton Council v. EPA.” (link opens .pdf of ruling.)

As such, House aggies aren’t exactly tied up with policy debates to address, say, today’s soaring food prices, the nation’s perilously thin food stocks or a dysfunctional federal dairy policy.

Blind

They are, however, quite busy ensuring Big Ag’s political agenda is implemented through oversight, hindsight and no sight.

For example, the March 15 letter informs the Budget Chairman — as if it matters to him — that “Regulations appear to be promulgated in spite of negative real-world economic consequences which will undermine U.S. producers in providing the world’s safest, most abundant, most affordable food and fiber in the world.”

Real message

Let’s hit the high points of that sentence again, shall we?

“Regulations… in spite of negative real-world… consequences which… appear” to undermine the “world’s safest… food and fiber in the world.”

Yep, that’s what I thought; three “worlds,” two verbs and not one fact.

‘Overzealous EPA’

A page later, the regulation horse is trotted out again for Lucas and Peterson to beat again — this time with more fog and bigger wet noodles.

“If this Congress is successful in lowering the cost of compliance by reigning in the overzealous EPA,” the letter reports, “the Committee will review conservation programs to see if conservation benefits are being administered as efficiently as possible under current fiscal and regulatory conditions.”

if “this Congress” isn’t successful in the political goal of “lowering the cost” of an “overzealous EPA” the committee won’t review conservation programs for efficiency “under current fiscal and regulatory conditions” — whatever that means? Jeesh.

The letter also explains that the committee, when not skinning EPA, will “‘audit’ or inventory” all policies under its “jurisdiction” to prepare to write the 2012 farm bill.

This effort will, of course, necessitate “field hearings” — trips to, say, key ag districts in Oklahoma during football season and maybe even Minnesota districts during pheasant season — so “affected groups” can help “establish the framework” on which “programs need to be eliminated or consolidated.”

Golly, why have hearings anywhere on anything if you already know that “programs need to be eliminated or consolidated”? Oh, that’s right; football and pheasants.

After Lucas and Peterson signed, sealed and sent the committee letter to the budget chairman March 15, the full House approved, according to the House Appropriations Committee, another $358 million in cuts to USDA’s yet-to-be-enacted 2011 budget. Both Lucas and Peterson voted for the additional cuts.

Hey, this ag policy stuff is easy. Now, somebody see a horse?

About the Author

Alan Guebert was raised on an 800-acre, 100-cow southern Illinois dairy farm. After graduation from the University of Illinois in 1980, he served as a writer and editor at Professional Farmers of America, Successful Farming magazine and Farm Journal magazine. His syndicated agricultural column, The Farm and Food File, began in June, 1993, and now appears weekly in more than 70 publications throughout the U.S. and Canada. He and spouse Catherine, a social worker, have two adult children. farmandfoodfile.com More Stories by Alan Guebert

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