Three Kansas Farmers Union (KFU) members, along with Farmers Union members from across the country, visited with Congressman and Senators during the National Farmers Union Spring Fly-in.
KFU President Donn Teske of Wheaton, KFU Communications Specialist Lauren DeMott-Clary of Windom and KFU Member Nick Levendofsky of Republic visited 18 Congressman and Senators in a day and a half.
“Members of Congress are better able to understand the issues facing American agriculture when they can put a face and name to those issues,” Levendofsky said. “I feel very confident that our meetings went very well and our message was heard.”
Before Farmers Union members met with their representatives, they heard from House Ag Committee Chairman Lucas and Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Stabenow, as well as ranking House member Colin Peterson and the USDA at National Farmers Union headquarters.
Congressman Lucas said the House Ag Committee would like to wait one year before finalizing the 2012 Farm Bill, so that it can be based off of next year’s budget. Although, he would like to present the Bill to President Obama before the 2012 election.
“I don’t think it is in the best interest of farmers to wait and work the Farm Bill next year,,” Teske said.
Congressman Lucas also commented that with almost half of the House Ag Committee being freshman, they hope to work with the Senate Ag Committee, who has five former chairman and a former Secretary of Agriculture.
Senator Stabenow said agriculture is facing some of the largest cuts at 14 percent below 2010.
“This is a real challenge for use. We need to set our priorities,” Senator Stabenow said. “If you’re (farmers and ranchers) successful, then we’re successful as a country.”
Farmers Union members urged members of Congress to support blenders tax credit, the Clean Air Act, Community Wind and investments in renewable fuel infrastructure.
“Kansas Farmers Union has long been strong supporters of renewable energy, especially wind, and in a really perfect world, community wind,” Teske said.
Farmers Union is in support of the Clean Air Act, although production agriculture should be exempt from the regulating of greenhouse gases and particulate matter.
The 2012 Farm Bill was a big topic during the congressional visits. Kansas Farmers Union informed Representatives about the 2008 Farm Bill programs without baseline funding beyond 2012. Of these 37 programs, eight are energy programs and five are conservation programs.
“A lot of what was considered more progressive, socially accepted, parts of the past farm bill were funded from non-baseline dollars,” Teske said. "To let these expire is taking agriculture backwards."
“Even in the baseline part of the farm bill, funding direct payments with todays crop prices is going to be hard to defend,” Teske added. “Farmers Union has long been supporters of counter-cyclical support programs which would shore up agriculture when needed. To focus our shrinking dollars on future farm bills that work on a stronger support system for agriculture when the prices will again be low is the responsible thing to do.”