Senator Nelson Hears Suggestion from Producers, Lenders on 2012 Farm Bill
U.S. Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska was in Auburn Monday, Aug. 8 to receive input from farmers about what they would like to see included in the 2012 Farm Bill.
Nelson, who is back in Nebraska for the August recess, told the approximately 30 producers and lenders present that everyone should expect to see Congress in a “budget cutting mood” due to the nation’s current financial picture.Ruth Gerdes of Auburn Agency told the paper that she had been asked to invite producers from the region to offer suggestions about possible Farm Bill changes. Counties represented in addition to Nemaha were Johnson, Pawnee, Richardson, Otoe, Gage, Cass, Butler, Jefferson, Saunders and Sarpy in Nebraska; Atchison and Holt in Missouri, and Fremont in Iowa.
Rick Gibson with AgroNational of Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Gerdes gave a presentation to the group of farmers and lenders about possible changes to the next Farm Bill. Gerdes described Gibson as a long-time crop insurance innovator. Gibson, Gerdes, Dr. Art Barnaby of Kansas State University and Eugene Glock have been working on how to utilize existing resources for agriculture in the best ways possible. Dr. Barnaby is a Professor of Agricultural Economics at KSU.
Gerdes said the farmers present were unanimous in their top priorities for the 2012 Farm Bill as being improvements to the crop insurance program as well as maintaining a strong conservation program.
Gerdes told those present that she has 31 crop insurance clients who have experienced losses due to flooding. “We have people in this region who will harvest a bumper crop, while others have been flooded out or their yields have been impacted by a lack of rain.
The senator explained why he voted against the debt deal which was recently signed into law. He called it a convoluted system which is typical for Washington D.C. with a 12-person committee trying to come up with some important budget-cutting recommendations. He also mentioned that the legislation approved wouldn’t make any budget cuts for at least a year. “There’s not enough cuts in it and there aren’t any planned soon enough,” Nelson remarked. “This group will just lead to more uncertainty and turmoil.”
Nelson also outlined the balanced budget amendment which he is co-sponsoring and made the case for more cuts to federal spending.
“Washington needs to cut spending and bring down the national debt, not just change the debt limit,” he said.
Nelson added, “There is a right way and a wrong way to cut spending,” highlighting his opposition to raising taxes and the importance of protecting Medicare and Social Security.
“The Ryan proposal undercut and eliminated Medicare, which is still the only way to insure older people who become sick. We don’t want to balance the budget on the backs of senior citizens and ag producers.
“There’s lots of waste in government and that’s where a lot of the cuts need to come from. Our defense spending grew fast with our troops involved in two and a half wars. Why wouldn’t it?” he asked.
In directing his comments toward agriculture, Sen. Nelson said, “Financial times in agriculture are good now. Those in charge need to make sure when crafting the 2012 Farm Bill that we’re not making cuts in the safety net which farmers are used to, such as crop insurance. We need to protect the risk management tools which ag depends on. There needs to be shared sacrifice both here and in DC.”
“Great commodity prices would beat good farm programs any day. The United States wants to remain self sustaining on food. I still want to support family farms,” he commented.
In looking ahead, Nelson said Congressional work on the next Farm Bill might begin right after the current recess which concludes after Labor Day. He also noted the continual competition among producers of cotton, row crops and other commodities.
Auburn banker and Mayor Scott Kudrna encouraged the senator to listen to input from local producers like those in attendance at the meeting.
Nelson cited his background in the insurance business and said he believes in the use of risk management tools.
After the Flood Waters Recede
Nelson was asked about what the Corps of Engineers did previously and what needs to be done in the future to avoid a massive flooding situation such as is ongoing in the Missouri River Basin. He said the Corps’ Master Manual will require some changes and at this time
“the Corps is serving too many masters.” Nelson said Corps officials will need to explain if they presently have enough space allocated for flood control in the existing plan.
Regarding fixing roads which have been and may continue to be damaged by the flooding, Nelson said there should be less government bureaucracy involved in getting the highways and interstates repaired and back into use. “We need to assure that no new environmental impact statements will be required for replacements in basically the same area as those destroyed or damaged by this year’s flood,” he commented.
When asked if the aid which the United States provides Pakistan is a reasonable expense, Nelson said, “Our aid that goes to Pakistan permits our troops fly-over opportunities and for our military supplies to be shipped through there to where we are involved in conflicts. I would describe our relationship with Pakistan at this time as being stressed, stretched and uncertain. We aren’t buying friendships and loyalty, but instead we are assuring access.”
To a question regarding the U.S. and its close ties with Israel, Nelson reminded those present that Israel is the only functioning Democracy in the Middle East.
He added that technology will be a big draw in the future in whatever we do.
Daryl Obermeyer asked Nelson for his thoughts on the current financial problems which the U.S. Postal Service is facing and its suggestions for relieving some of the financial pain by closing many smaller offices and possibly eliminating Saturday mail delivery.
The senator replied, “I don’t see how you can give away a business day to your competition. The Postal Service is overfunding in its pension plan.”
Senator Nelson’s Committee,
Sen. Nelson serves on the Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Committee which has legislative oversight of the Department of Agriculture. It oversees all matters relating to the nation’s agriculture industry, farming programs, renewable energy production, forestry and logging, and legislation relating to nutrition and health. Nelson is chairman of the Commodities, Markets, Trade and Risk Management subcommittee. He also serves on the Jobs, Rural Economic Growth & Energy Innovation and Livestock, Dairy, Poultry, Marketing & Agriculture Security subcommittees.
Nelson is also chairman of the Legislative Branch subcommittee on the Appropriations Committee, and serves on the following subcommittees: Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration; the Commerce, Justice, Science; the Financial Services and General Goverment; the Interior, Environment; and the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs groups.