“I am somewhat optimistic,” shared former House Ag Committee Chair Collin Peterson.
“It could be done if certain requirements are met,” he continued in speaking at the International Dairy Foods Association’s Dairy Forum held in late January. “Can ag (agriculture) live with the money in the current farm bill?” asked the Congressional leader who spent 30 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. “Also, we need to avoid a fight over SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and all nutrition programs,” he advised of an area that accounts for over 75% of the farm bill. “If we have a fight, we will struggle to get a farm bill done,” cautioned Peterson.
“The Republicans want to get something passed,” advised Dan Glickman, who served 18 years in the U.S. House of Representatives and later served six years as USDA Secretary. “The farm bill is a place where they can agree,” he said of the Republicans who hold a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“G.T. Thompson is a good chair for the House Ag Committee,” commented former U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, speaking a day earlier at the Dairy Forum’s opening session. “I think you will have a farm bill because the majority wants to get the farm bill done,” continued Ryan in speaking to attendees at the Orlando, Fla., gathering.
A House leadership change
Glenn “G.T.” Thompson previously had been the ranking member on the House Ag Committee when the Democrats controlled the House of Representatives. This is the first time he is serving as chair of the committee as the Republicans now hold a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. That’s not the only change on the House Ag Committee.
“With all these new members, we have an entirely new House Ag Committee,” said Peterson. “Also, we don’t have any Democrats from rural districts. That’s a problem. Most Democrats who want to be on the House Ag Committee are on it because of SNAP,” commented Peterson.
The Senate is much different.
“Every Senator represents farm country,” stated Glickman, noting each state has two Senators and that agriculture matters to them as every state has farmers. “However, the House really only has about 50 or so districts in farm country.”
Glickman also offered additional insight into nutrition and the SNAP program.
“We don’t have famine in this country. We do have food insecurity,” said Glickman. “A poor diet is the leading cause of early mortality. That’s why expanding the Healthy Incentives project is a good step forward. Dairy should be part of Healthy Incentives.”
“Most medical professionals are trained to keep you alive,” continued Glickman. “However, the science of food, medicine, and health is largely a space that is being developed.”
Will leadership allow ag leaders to work?
There’s another question raised by Peterson when it comes to pending farm bill legislation. Will leadership allow the Ag Committee to do the work and get a new bill written?
“When I was in Congress, Nancy Pelosi allowed the House Ag Committee to do their work,” said Peterson, who twice chaired the House Ag Committee. Peterson went on to explain that there has been a developing trend for House Leadership to inject far too much advice and opinion early in the bill-writing process. In his mind, that bogs down bill development and eventual passage.