Iowa Farmers Union President Aaron Lehman says he’s encouraged the new five-year piece of legislation will pass before the current Farm Bill expires at the end of September. “We are still hopeful that we can see some signs that serious compromises need to be made in order to move a good product ahead,” Lehman says. “It’s a good sign but we know there’s quite a bit yet to be done to get us to where we need to be in the end.”
Lehman says members of the conference committee have plenty of work ahead. House Republicans proposed sweeping changes to the food stamp program or SNAP, including a work requirement. Senators didn’t include any major changes in food stamps in the $956 billion Farm Bill.
“The window is getting tight to get the work done and that is certainly the issue that we anticipate is going to be front and center between the two versions,” Lehman says, “but I’ve got to tell you, there’s a lot of other issues that are so important that the two versions are very different.”
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley added an amendment to the Farm Bill which aims to close the loophole he says enables Wall Street bankers to get federal farm dollars, even if they’ve never had dirt under their fingernails. Grassley says, “Allowing these types of nonfarmers to milk the farm safety net for millions of dollars in subsidies each year is ridiculous.” Lehman hopes members of the conference committee will include Grassley’s proposal in the final package.
“It’s so important to direct our dollars in the right way to family-sized operations as much as possible,” Lehman says. “We’ve got a limited pool of money that we can work with in the farm bill and we’ve always felt that we haven’t dedicated the resources we need to in order to help farmers.” He adds he’s hopeful Grassley’s proposal will “win the day.”
(By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton)