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Locals upset with farm bill failure

Published: Monday, June 24, 2013 2:56 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, June 24, 2013 3:22 p.m. CDT

Disagreement over cuts to the nation’s food stamp program resulted in Congress’ failure to pass the latest farm bill.

On Thursday, the House of Representatives defeated the farm bill by a margin of 234-195.

The SNAP program, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which includes the nation’s food stamp program, was the apparent culprit.

Many Democrats voted against the bill because it cut an estimated $2 billion each year from the program, while many of the Republicans voting no wanted to see bigger cuts.

In addition to the stamps, the program included provisions streamlining conservation programs, expanding the federally subsidized crop insurance program to $93 billion over the next 10 years and slashing subsidy payments — including the elimination of the $5 billion a year in direct payments to farmers.

Steve Cowser, who raises hogs near Bradford, said the crop insurance provisions in the farm bill are very important to agriculture.

“It helps in managing risk for both farm operators and lenders,” he said.

Cowser said that over the last 10 years, crop insurance has been a profit maker for the government and added net money to the United States treasury.

“I hope the farm bill continues to support crop insurance,” he said. “The U.S. government is only one of the underwriters of crop insurance, and only a minor risk taker. Private companies are the biggest bearers of the loss risks.”

Cowser said he does oppose payment limitations or higher insurance premiums above a certain dollar figure.

“In the case of crop insurance, operators are paying a premium based on number of acres insured and type of coverage they choose,” he said.

Cowser also said he isn’t sure that price supports and other government programs are needed for commodities grown in the Midwest.  

“The opportunity to fail is something that is very important to our economic system,” he said. “The government is not responsible nor should it try to eliminate that risk either for individuals or industries.”

Agriculture groups were disappointed in the failure of Congress to pass the bill.

“It’s unfortunate that we’ve worked so hard and come so far during the past two years to end up with this outcome,” said Illinois Farm Bureau President Philip Nelson. “We express hope that the inevitable political finger pointing will end quickly, and that both sides will work quickly — and in good faith — to bridge partisan and policy differences and pass a bill that will provide certainty for farmers, protect crop insurance and reduce the deficit.”

Don King, owner/president of Michlig Holdings Inc., said the failure to pass the bill was “sad.”

“No one in Washington can get together on anything,” he said. “The Senate provided a decent bill, and the House kills it off. It makes it very hard for the farmers and agri-businessmen to plan for the future.”

Keith Bolin, who farms near Manlius, said he was surprised and disappointed at the failure of the House to pass the bill.

“It’s a sign of the times,” he said. “Whether in Springfield or Washington, D.C., it’s the inability of good people to come to a consensus on issues.”

Bolin said the controversy over the SNAP program is what caused the bill to fail.

“The sad reality is the people who really wanted the fiscal side cut, even when they succeeded, they still didn’t vote for it,” he said.

Bolin is also frustrated that both sides are trying to blame the other.

“The failure is really embarrassing for everybody,” he said. “The public doesn’t care which party’s fault it was, they’ll just blame Congress.”

It’s uncertain what happens next. Many farm programs, including direct payments and crop insurance, will remain in place through Sept. 30, but other programs, like disaster assistance for livestock producers, expired in 2011 and will remain unfinanced.

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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