Ag Committee freshman sees hope for farm bill accord

Freshman U.S. House Ag Committee member Rodney Davis is frustrated by Congress' "artificial deadlines and 'cliffs'"

Published on: Jan 14, 2013

     Freshman U.S. House Ag Committee member Rodney Davis is frustrated by Congress’ “artificial deadlines and ‘cliffs,’” noting “we always get taken to the brink.”

     The Taylorville Republican thus saw the 11th, nine-month extension of 2008 farm bill provisions over approval of a new comprehensive, long-term measure “a failure of Republicans and Democrats.”

That failure was particularly disappointing in the wake of “one of the most historic droughts of our generation,” Davis told FarmWeek.

     Illinois has retained three Ag Committee seats despite the retirement of Urbana Republican Tim Johnson, Colona Republican Bobby Schilling’s election defeat, and Winfield Republican Randy Hultgren’s committee reassignment.

     Davis suggests farm bill discussions may resume once ag subcommittee assignments are made. He said he is buoyed by prospects of working with Democrat committee initiates Cheri Bustos of East Moline, who succeeded Schilling; and Bill Enyart, a Belleville Democrat who follows retired Belleville Democrat Rep. Jerry Costello.

     Davis recognizes Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) “has a tough job ahead of him,” and is concerned about actions that committee ranking Democrat Collin Peterson’s (D-Minn.) may take. Peterson supports proposed dairy program reforms and voted against the fiscal cliff/farm bill extension deal.

     In addition, Sen. Thad Cochran’s (R-Miss.) appointment as new Senate Ag Committee ranking Republican could mean expanded farm bill provisions for southern growers.

The current Senate farm bill plan would replace direct and countercyclical payments with a new revenue safety net program, while the House has eyed a two-tiered safety net preserving price-based supports favored in the South.

     Achieving a 2013 farm bill will require “give-and-take by all sectors of our agricultural economy,” Davis advised.

     “Our farmers have said, ‘We don’t want direct payments as long as we can strengthen crop insurance and have better risk management tools, so we can have certainty,’” he said.

     “Look at my district, right here in Central Illinois. I have some of the best, most fertile farmland in the world, and the best prices. That’s where we mainly grow corn and soybeans. Then you go down to the southwestern portion of my district, where we have a number of specialty crops.

     “We have to find that compromise within my own district, and temper it with livestock and other issues that will continue to arise. I do believe we can find that same compromise nationwide, when we talk about the southern agricultural sector, which favors targeted pricing criteria, vs. what we’re looking at -- more a focus on risk management tools.”