Varilek warns of expired farm bill’s consequencesNoem official dismisses opponent’s comments, calls them political maneuvering.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
SIOUX FALLS — Democratic congressional candidate Matt Varilek returned to a familiar topic Tuesday, blasting Congress for allowing the farm bill to expire at the end of September.
Varilek gathered several agriculture producers at his campaign headquarters in Sioux Falls to make the point. The farm bill, which passed the Senate but was never brought to a vote in the House, expired Sunday.
“Today, I heard firsthand the impact of the uncertainty placed on everyday South Dakota producers,” Varilek said in a release after the roundtable meeting.
“With one of the worst droughts in decades, you’d have thought our elected leaders would get the job done.”
While crops are being harvested now or are already in barns or on the market, some experts worry that farmers and ranchers are not investing in equipment or other items for the 2013 season.
Banks may also be reluctant to provide loans to producers without the assurance of the farm bill.
Some House Republicans, especially freshmen elected along with Noem in 2010, are reluctant to support the farm bill, which they consider bloated and packed with excessive spending.
Meanwhile, some House Democrats feel cuts to nutrition programs proposed in the House version are too deep.
The result has been a stalled bill, despite rallies across the country and at the Capitol to urge passage of the bill.
Noem made speeches on the House floor and asked the Republican House leadership to schedule a vote, but it has not happened and Congress is now in recess as members take time off or campaign for re-election.
Tom Erickson, Noem’s campaign manager, dismissed the comments as political maneuvering by her opponent.
“It’s really unfortunate to watch Matt Varilek play politics about such an important issue,” Erickson said.
“It’s even worse to see Varilek make ridiculous statements such as this that have no basis for fact,” he said. “As someone who has spent her life farming and ranching, Kristi Noem understands how important this legislation is and has made passing a full five-year farm bill her number one priority.”
During Varilek’s meeting, producers in the room emphasized that in tough economic times, farmers are willing to tighten their belts a bit and accept reduced or eliminated direct payments.
Crop insurance, on the other hand, has given farmers confidence to plant in the face of an uncertain harvest that might be devastated by a single flood, drought or storm.
With crop insurance provisions in place, “we had some assurance that should some things fail that you had no control of, that the rest of the country was behind you,” said Aurora County farmer Ed Arts, “so that you could keep producing food.”