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Agriculture Today

Cuellar addresses Farm Bill, ag issues

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Wilson County News
September 19, 2012 | 3,100 views | Post a comment

In a sign of unity, approximately 500 people rallied on Capitol Hill Sept. 12 for one purpose -- to urge Congress to approve a new farm bill, since the current Farm Bill expires Sept. 30.

“It’s about more than just farms and farmers -- in fact, very little of the Farm Bill money is dedicated to farms at all,” said National Grange Executive Committee Chairwoman Betsy Huber in a Sept. 12 National Grange press release. “The Farm Bill is about jobs, it’s about nutrition, health, education, research, conservation, energy, trade, and often lastly about farms. Every American is affected by the Farm Bill.”

Prior to the farm rally, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar visited the Floresville area. Although his planned stop at the Wilson County News didn’t materialize, he responded by email to questions regarding the Farm Bill.

As a member of the House Agriculture committee, Cuellar signed a letter to U.S. House Speaker John Boehner asking for the House to debate and vote on HR 6083, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act, or the 2012 Farm Bill, approved by the committee on July 12.

The Wilson County News asked Cuellar about the status of the Farm Bill and the contents of the House version.

WCN: Do you feel a new farm bill will be approved before the Sept. 30 deadline, when the current bill expires?

Cuellar: I remain confident that the Republican House leadership will allow us to take a vote in the coming weeks on the Farm Bill I supported in the Agriculture Committee.

WCN: What happened to the proposed extension of the current 2008 Farm Bill?

Cuellar: We must remain focused on a new long-term farm bill, such as the five-year Farm Bill I supported, which saved taxpayers $35 billion over the next 10 years. The Texas Farm Bureau, along with countless other agriculture organizations, share this perspective. A long-term farm bill, rather than a six-month extension, allows producers to prepare land, equipment, etc., over a five-year period. The last thing you need to deal with when planting crops is whether or not the programs you rely on will exist when it’s time to harvest. Just recently, the Farm Bureau honored me with the “Friend of the Farm Bureau” award for my support of initiatives that benefit ranchers and farmers.

WCN: In the Senate version of the Farm Bill, a Miscellaneous Title (with a Livestock Title) was included. Does the House version include this?

Cuellar: Yes, both bills contain similar language concerning livestock in Title 12. The House version contains nearly all of the Senate programs, however not all.

WCN: In the House version, two amendments were added -- U.S. Department of Agriculture--Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) and Country of Origin Labeling (COOL). What are your feelings on the World Trade Organization’s ruling? Do you support the COOL amendment?

Cuellar: I originally supported the WTO [World Trade Organization] ruling, as Mexican and Canadian cattle raised in South Texas are just as safe, and are tested as much or more than cattle born in the United States. Regarding the amendment, I supported the amendment to bring some resolution [to] the ongoing debate and appeal process. The amendment sets some deadlines to simply move the process forward.

WCN: Do you support the defunding of the U.S. Department of Agriculture -- Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) amendment? If yes, why? With all the meetings and the large amount of letters, why was this program, introduced in the last Farm Bill, thrown out?

Cuellar: I supported the repeal of the GIPSA rulemaking. Since the passage of the 2008 Farm Bill, the GIPSA rulemaking process has been overly burdensome for American agriculture. I understood why we added the language in 2008, as it was originally intended to protect small producers -- however, the rule grew and expanded far beyond original intent.

As Cuellar answered these questions, he also addressed other issues, such as estate taxes and Cap and Trade, not related to the Farm Bill. For more, see page 7A -

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