Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Forgotten Farm Bill – Patterns of Behavior

In July I reported “What happens when a nation of small family farms becomes a nation of large corporate agri-businesses?”[1]

Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
On June 10th the US Senate sent a bill to authorize agricultural programs through 2018[2] to the House. Michigan’s own Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry and she worker with Republicans to produce a bill that would get their support.

To be honest, this bill was a big disappointment to me, it expanded subsidies that largely benefit large corporate agri-businesses and reduced support for food assistance programs. But this is what happens when Democrats chair the committee … they compromise for the greater good of the nation.

A month later, July 10th, the Republicans in the House passed a bill to provide for the reform and continuation of agricultural and other programs of the Department of Agriculture through fiscal year 2018[3] that retained the increased subsidies for large corporate agri-businesses but totally stripped out all funding for food assistance programs.

Representative Tim Walberg, Michigan's 7th Congressional District
Representative Tim Walberg (R-Tipton) and other enthusiastic supporters of gutting food assistance programs were well aware that the farm bill they passed had absolutely no chance of ever being passed in the Senate or signed by the President. Republicans used to reach across the isle and craft bills that could get support from Democrats … the way Senator Stabenow did.

The problem with Tim Walberg isn’t that he is a Republican, it is that his an ultra-conservative who is perfectly willing to let a good farm bill fail so that he can have his way on something he is ideologically married to, such as ending food assistance programs.

This is a pattern of behavior that we are seeing again with the budget. Tim Walberg and his Republican colleagues are willing to see the government shut down rather than put a resolution to continue funding government before the House that would have even the most remote chance of passing in the Senate or getting the President’s signature. They are willing to put agri-business at risk to have their way on food assistance and they are willing to put the welfare of the whole nation at risk to have their way on Obamacare.

No matter how this shakes out, we need new representation and we need to start supporting the candidate who will beat Tim Walberg now. Pam Byrnes (D-Chelsea) is a candidate that is able to see that the needs of our agricultural community are poorly served by a representative who is hostile to bipartisanship.

Pam Byrnes, Democratic candidate for Michigan's 7th Congressional District
In a recent interview[4], Pam Byrnes spoke about an achievement that she takes great pride in, the Cottage Food Bill. She worked with both Democrats and Republicans to craft a bill that would enjoy a large degree on bipartisan support. This bill made it easier for small local farmers that kept bees for honey or harvested maple syrup to produce and sell a finished product. It also helped small local farmers and crafters to produce certain types of food products in home kitchens or on the family farm.

This is exactly what we all want in representations, someone who is just plain reasonable and willing to work with others to do the right thing!

Next year, Pam Byrnes is going to need your help and mine in many ways but the best way you can her help right now is to make a contribution to Pam Byrnes for Congress. Tim Walberg has a substantial War Chest filled by Koch Brother supported groups like the Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity and others to take into the 2014 election.

We have to put thousands of small and medium donations together to beat a few big donations. I made my contribution to Pam Byrnes for Congress a few days ago so that it would be included in the quarterly report that closed out tomorrow night. Larger contributors look at those reports and count the number of donors and the total; when they see our support for her, it encourages them to add theirs and our small contributions turn into bigger contributions.

Please contribute to Pam Byrnes for Congress right away. We need a Congress that can work together and pass a budget. The current Congress has not passed a budget since May 2009 and isn’t even talking about doing so; they are working on something called a “continuing resolution”. Enough is enough! The campaign starts now!

[1] Vine Street Report, "What happens when a nation of small family farms becomes a nation of large corporate agri-businesses?", < >.
[2] S. 954: Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013. See < >.
[3] H.R. 2642: Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013. See < >.
[4] eclectablog, "Pam Byrnes, Democratic candidate for Michigan's 7th Congressional District: A progressive breath of fresh air fo MI-07", < >.