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Farm Bill Outlook- Perspective From Ranking Member Peterson

House Ag Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D., Minn.) was a guest on Wednesday’s Adams on Agricultureradio show with Mike Adams.  Rep. Peterson provided his perspective on the status of Farm Bill legislation that was approved by the Committee last month.

During the interview (audio replay here (MP3- 9:00); unofficial FarmPolicyNews transcript here) Mr. Adams queried: “All right, you’ve got a week off. You’re back talking with people. What kind of reaction are you getting to this farm bill proposal?

Rep. Peterson frankly stated, “Not much.”

Elaborating, he explained,

That’s about the fourth or fifth thing that comes up, if it even comes up. People are concerned about what’s going on with this trade situation [NAFTA, China], what’s going on with the RFS. That’s the No. 1 and 2 things that I hear about, depending on where I’m at. And they just don’t…I don’t know, it just…they’re not fired up. The question is, well, is it going to get done or not, and they don’t seem to be too worried about it one way or the other. So I don’t know. It’s kind of weird.

Rep. Peterson also noted, “Well, you know, I’m reflecting the views of the Democrats on the Ag Committee. They are unanimous, and we have a lot of members on the committee that are most interested in the SNAP part of the bill. So this is an affront to them. And I don’t know what you can do to change their minds. I don’t think there’s much you can do.

Participation in SNAP varies across States, reflecting differences in need and program policies. “Selected Charts from Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, 2017.” (USDA-ERS, April 2017).

“I think a bigger concern for where this thing is going is the fact that the Heritage Action people apparently came out against the bill, so I don’t know how you get this thing done. And that’s what I tried to tell the chairman at the beginning of this process, that this just wasn’t going to fly. And one of the things you don’t do, and I’ve learned in politics if you want to have a bipartisan situation, you don’t ask somebody to do something they can’t do. And that’s the situation we’re in here.

“So it’ll play out. We’re not going to have any amendments. They’ll pass it or they won’t, depending on what happens. If it goes into conference, you know, if it passes, the Senate is not going to do any of this SNAP stuff. So how you, even if we get a bill back out of conference, how you get that back across the House floor, if they’ve already taken this position going over to conference, I don’t know. I just don’t see it. But I’m not the chairman, and we’ll just have to see how this plays out.”

Mr. Adams asked, “The chairman told me last week that he’s hopeful that you’ll come back to the table and work on this farm bill. He said he’s hoping that you’ll come back. Have you had any more conversations with him? Do you anticipate having any more talks with him before a vote?”

Rep. Peterson stated,

I have not had conversations with him. And, you know, I’m willing to talk to him, but I’m not going to initiate it because he’s made pretty clear where he’s at, and he’s said from the start on these work requirements that he’s not going to negotiate. And that was a deal breaker on our side of the aisle, partly because of what happened in 2013.

“I think that people should work. I agree with that. What I don’t agree with is this huge amount of money that’s being spent on a bureaucracy that’s not going to accomplish anything. It’s not enough money to actually train anybody. They’re fixing the wrong part of the problem.

“The problem with people that aren’t working is that they’re living in the wrong place, and they have a waiver. And the bill doesn’t do anything about the waivers.  So you’re still going to have all kinds of people in these metropolitan areas and other rural parts of the country that have been on waivers that are going to continue to be on waivers, and the folks that are going to be caught up in this are just going to be run through a huge bureaucracy where they’re going to spend all their time filling out paperwork and I guess driving to workforce centers, which in my part of the world is not reasonable.”

With respect to Title I, Rep. Peterson indicated that, “I was concerned about the adequacy of the safety net in Title 1. But I was convinced that we don’t have any money, so we can’t do anything. So we worked through things. But when we were doing that, we were not under as much stress of getting rid of the RFS or these trade situations, which I think put us in a much more precarious position in terms of the safety net.”

Rep. Peterson added that he does not anticipate any Democrats voting for the farm bill on the House floor.

Keith Good Photo

Keith Good is the Farm Policy News editor for the farmdoc project. He has previously worked for the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, and compiled the daily News Summary from 2003-2015. He is a graduate of Purdue University (M.S.- Agricultural Economics), and Southern Illinois University School of Law.

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