U.S. Rep. Zach Space
WASHINGTON — On their trip to Washington D.C. March 9-11, the Ohio Farm Bureau county presidents discovered there are some key issues buzzing around the city.
Here are the top five farm-related conversations on Capitol Hill:
1. Obama administration’s proposal to phase out direct payments to farmers with sales of more than $500,000 (and will the farm bill be re-opened before 2012).
Sen. Sherrod Brown: “If we move it, it would be tied to Adjusted Gross Income.” But he doesn’t see the farm bill being reopened.
Rep. Collin Peterson, chairman, House agriculture committee: We have a “problem with this administration.” The proposal “really is kind of crazy. … The new motto is ‘big farms bad, big banks good’ … If you’re a big bank, you can get all the @#$%* money you want. … We did our work in the farm bill; we reduced our subsidies in the farm bill. Some people want us to go further.”
2. Will there be a comprehensive energy bill/climate change bill, and how will it affect agriculture?
Anne Steckel, American Farm Bureau Federation lobbyist: “It’s very likely we will be doing another energy bill this year” and look for emphasis on cellulosic ethanol research and production. But look for the energy bill to be joined at the hip with climate change legislation. “Cap-and-trade and energy will probably be going hand-in-hand.” And Steckel’s co-worker Rick Krause warned: “There’s so many unintended consequences from this type of regulation.”
Rep. Zach Space: Global warming is real “and we need to deal with it” on the international level. “It’s (cap-and-trade) going to be done whether we like it or not.”
Rep. Jim Jordan: “Fight cap-and-trade; fight the people who want carbon trade. It’s terrible for Ohio and it’s terrible for our country.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown: Climate change legislation is important, but it can’t be done at one region’s expense. “We [Ohio] can’t bear the brunt.”
Rep. Collin Peterson: “It’s likely that something will be done. … If we don’t do it, if we let the other committee do it, I can guarantee you, you won’t like it. This train is coming down the tracks.”
3. Humane Society of the United States targeting Ohio on the animal welfare front:
Brent Porteus, president, Ohio Farm Bureau: Wayne Pacelle (HSUS CEO) “is a very formidable foe” because he’s smooth, polite, politically correct and charismatic. If agriculture underestimates HSUS, “we’re really, really, really fooling ourselves. … This will be the biggest fight the ag community has ever taken on.”
Rep. John Boehner: “Do not underestimate the power of these organizations to come in and arbitrarily change the rules.”
Kelli Ludlum, American Farm Bureau lobbyist: “The future can be pretty bleak if we don’t do something about it now.”
4. The economic crisis:
Sen. George Voinovich: “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. …We just gotta get people to start buying stuff. The more we hunker in, the worse it gets.”
Rep. Collin Peterson: “Agriculture is probably one of the bright spots, if you can call it that. … It’s going to be a little tighter, but it’s not going to be the end of the world.”
Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., ranking member, House ag committee: “We shouldn’t be in a place where we can’t let a company fail. … This whole economy was a false economy. When we hit bottom, we’ll see an economy that’s a lot different than we did before.”
5. Ag education and public relations:
Rep. Bob Latta: “A lot of people need to get away from the Norman Rockwell view of agriculture. … You’ve got to get on top of the tallest building and shout about what you do.”
Dan Cowdrey, Highland Co. Farm Bureau president: “We kind of live in our own little silo. We need to get to others who don’t.”
Rep. Collin Peterson: “I’m not sure people want to hear our message. … We’re talking to each other and I don’t think it’s working at all.”