Peterson pessimistic about farm bill prospects

MONTEVIDEO – Seventh District Congressman Collin Peterson said Monday he is not optimistic about passing a farm bill this year.

Peterson addressed a meeting of about 30 people involved in agriculture at the Trailways Cafe in Montevideo before heading back to Washington.

Peterson, the ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, attributed the lack of progress to obstruction from right-wing groups such as the Heritage Foundation, Club for Growth and Tea Party Republicans.

“These screwballs we’ve got in office now, elected the last two times, they could care less about farmers,” Peterson said. “They want to get rid of farm programs and cut the budget. It sounds good to have a free market, but watch out if we ever get there.”

Peterson described in detail attempts to negotiate a compromise which foundered on issues such as including food stamp programs in the farm bill.

“What can pass in the House can’t pass in the Senate,” Peterson said, “and what can pass in the Senate can’t pass in the House.”

If congress cannot agree on a farm bill by Sept. 30 when the current bill expires, which Peterson said is most likely, then either an extension of the current bill will get passed, or if it isn’t the Permanent Law passed in 1949 and signed by Harry Truman will automatically take effect.

In either case, according to Peterson, crop insurance and food stamps will remain unaffected as they have authorization separate from the farm bill.

“Extension of the current bill is fine for crop farmers,” Peterson said, “but not for dairy farmers if there’s another (price) collapse. We’re trying to get a dairy insurance program like crops; there’s no safety net for dairy.”

Peterson said he was not only pessimistic about the current farm bill, but for prospects of any bipartisan consensus on farm issues in the future.

“I think this might be the last farm bill,” Peterson said. “There are so few of us that understand agriculture, and it’s so partisan. Now, 95 percent of the House represent districts that have no significant agriculture.”