While some are worried that the new fiscal hawks who were elected as the Republicans swept control of the U.S. House will be bad for agricultural interests in this country, the American Farm Bureau Federation says the shift to the right doesn’t necessarily mean the wrong path for farm policies.
“I know there’s people in the press who have said, ‘Oh gosh, [incoming Speaker of the House Republican] John Boehner’s gonna kill farm programs.’ I think that’s far from the truth. He’s a very smart guy, and he’s going to recognize a lot of the new people coming in are rural Republicans, and the Farm Bill’s going to mean a lot to those folks,” Mary Kay Thatcher, Director of Public Policy at AFBF, told our own Cindy Zimmerman during the Trade Talk session at the recent National Association of Farm Broadcasters meeting in Kansas City. While she believes farm programs will take some cuts, it won’t be more than what other programs are asked to give up.
She says members of Congress during the lame duck session will kick the budget to the next Congress coming in after the first of the year by passing a continuing resolution and will at least temporarily extend some of the Bush tax cuts before they expire on January 1st. But she’s not as optimistic that the ethanol and biodiesel tax breaks will be extended. Thatcher says they could be renewed on a temporary basis, but she’s not sure after that.
“It’ll be short term … six months, maybe a year … and then the new Congress will have to figure out where do you get the money to pay for that stuff.”
Thatcher says new advocacy groups, such as the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA), will be very important to keep the voice of the American farmer alive, despite there being fewer and fewer farmers and fewer and fewer farmers represented in Congress each year.
“I think we’ve got to do everything to try to put that simple message about what farmers do out there. Make sure people know you don’t get milk from a grocery store; you get it from a cow. We’ve probably got to do some advertising, [which] we didn’t have to do in the past,” says Thatcher.
Thatcher says the Farm Bill and biofuels tax credits will be big topics of discussion when the AFBF holds its 92nd Annual Meeting, Jan. 9-12, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia … just as the new Congress comes into session in Washington. She admits the ethanol tax credit could end up taking a hit from some of the new fiscal hawks elected this year. Thatcher does believe that farmers will be helped by the fact that Republicans have taken control of Congress, and thus, taken control of the purse strings of the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies that have put up roadblocks. And that could ease some of the restrictions the government has put on the agribusiness sector in the past few years.
Listen to more of Cindy’s interview with Mary Kay here: Mary Kay Thatcher, AFBF