Congressman Leonard Boswell.

The U.S. House passed drought relief legislation for cattle and livestock farmers Thursday that provides $383-million  from reductions in two conservation programs. All five Iowa Congressmen voted for the measure.

Congressman Leonard Boswell, a Democrat, said before the vote he would support the bill as his fellow livestock producers need help.

“While I am not a-hundred percent pleased with this bill, I will vote today to move it forward. On behalf of my producers in need, and for those who have been grappling for hay and who have begun to liquidate cattle, I will support this disaster aid bill. However, I do so with a heavy heart,” Boswell said.

Boswell says the drought relief doesn’t solve the bigger issue of passing a farm bill. “I have reservations regarding the cuts to conservation, particularly since conservation programs have been one option to help feed the cattle in our current drought,” Boswell said. “Furthermore if we could bring the farm bill to the floor, we could respond to the drought issue, we could debate issues that are critical to all Americans and we could advance a bill that saves tens of billions of dollars.”
The other members of the Iowa House delegation released statements on the issue.
Democrat Bruce Braley’s statement said:
“The drought assistance bill passed today is a step forward for Iowa farmers struggling through this summer’s drought, but it’s no Farm Bill. It’s a shame that politicians in Congress are behaving like little children. Instead of taking another recess to go out and play politics, Congress needs to grow up, act like adults, and get the job done. Iowa farmers aren’t getting a recess from the drought and Congress shouldn’t get one either until the Farm Bill is passed. Rather than take a month long break, Congress should get to work.”

Democrat Dave Loebsack had this to say about the vote:
“The worst case scenario came true for Iowa farmers – Republicans are playing politics and leaving early for their summer vacation while there is a historic drought gripping our state. The Republican Majority has refused to pass the single most important piece of legislation for Iowa Farmers – the farm bill. While I was hoping it would not come to this point, I was afraid it would, which is why I led the delegation in introducing a disaster relief package for farmers and livestock producers. “The bottom line is – we need a new farm bill and we need disaster aid. There are bipartisan bills to do both in the House and Senate, but Republicans would rather play politics and pack up and leave for vacation a day early than do the difficult work of actually getting a reformed farm bill done. Unfortunately, today we were forced to take a vote on a bill that is dead on arrival in the Senate to give the Majority Members cover for their August vacation while Iowa farmers suffer and the fields whither.”

Republican Tom Latham released this statement:
“Rain and temperature forecasts for the future are not promising and conditions appear to be worsening every day. We’re at a critical point, and while Congress can’t legislate rain or temperatures we can certainly provide farmers the certainty that they need to address this disaster which is the worst to hit farming in decades.”

Republican Steve King issued this statement:
“I am pleased that the House acted today to provide some assistance to those in our state’s and nation’s ag community who have been hit hard by this record drought,” said King. “I am troubled, though, that our leaders here in the House decided that this is all the legislative action that could be mustered to support the ag industry. I worked hard with the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Committee to pass a bi-partisan Farm Bill out of the House Agriculture Committee. In the weeks since the Committee’s approval of the bill, I have been urging House leaders to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.”

The relief for farmers will likely have to wait awhile. Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, said earlier in the day that there won’t be Senate vote on the issue until after the August recess.

“I think we let the House know that we’re not going to pay for disaster assistance by cutting conservation or other programs. The Budget Control Act gave us money. We have money in there for this disaster just like we did for Katrina and everything else,” Harkin says. Harkin says the Senate will make corrections to the funding for the relief bill after the August recess.

“There’s no reason for them to cut conservation or any other things like that to pay for this,” Harkin says. “And we’re not going to let them just sort of pass it and then go home, we’re going to be back here in September and try to fix it in September.”

It’s generally thought that lawmakers won’t accomplish much after the August recess because of the upcoming November election. Harkin says there are a few things that have to be done.

“We obviously, we have to do some kind of continuing (budget) resolution to keep the government running after September 30th. I know there is some kind of tentative agreements for a six-month continuing resolution until next spring, however that’s kind of in flux. But something will have to be done in September to do that,” according to Harkin.

Harkin made his comments during his weekly conference call with reporters.