Lebanon Daily News
Although Congress kicked the farm bill down the road 10 months ago, a Pennsylvania Congressman predicted a new bill will be ready by April.
Republican Congressman Glenn Thompson of State College, who represents the 5th Congressional District, is the state’s only representative on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee. He was a guest speaker at the FFA’s annual convention at the Pennsylvania State Farm Show Monday.
Congress approved an extension of the five-year farm bill until September as part of the larger legislation to avoid the “fiscal cliff” on Jan. 1.
“We couldn’t allow the farm bill to fully expire,” said Thompson of State College. “We were looking at $7 or $8 a gallon for milk, which sounds good to a farmer until you look at how that would have collapsed the domestic dairy industry.”
With more than 7,000 dairy farmers, Pennsylvania ranks fifth in the nation in milk production.
Thompson said he was glad the extension passed but not that it was extended to October. He said believes Congress will take up the issue again soon and “get it done by April.”
The “supply management” proposal for pricing milk in the bill is “very contentious,” he said. “To have the government dictate to farmers that they should reduce production or cull the herd, I don’t agree with that.”
The proposal would eliminate direct payments and export subsidies. Thompson said he believes that section will be taken out of the legislation in the next round of discussions.
He supports the new insurance program in the bill that he said would help stabilize milk prices for dairy farmers.
Under the existing bill, the Milk Insurance Loss program, which is intended to protect dairy farmers when milk prices decline significantly, would be replaced with a new voluntary insurance program.
The other controversial portion of the bill, Thompson said, relates to food stamps, which accounts for 88 percent of the spending in the farm bill.
“Both the Senate and House committees agree that it’s too much,” he said. “The difference between the versions is that the Senate version cut $4 billion in food stamps and the House version cut $16 billion. I think what’s most important is that we address this from a principal perspective. Any American citizen who truly qualifies, based on their income, for food stamps will have access to it. But that should not prevent us from really cracking down on the waste, fraud and abuse that’s become so prevalent with food stamps.”
Some states don’t require their citizens to fill out an application for food stamps, he said.
That’s “just wrong,” he added.
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