Farm Bill Vote Disappoints Farmers

Farm Bill Vote Disappoints Farmers
Photo by Jonathan Dinsmore

The farm bill went down in defeat today, 198-213. The vote came after a 48-hour deadlock between GOP leadership and members of what’s known as the Freedom Caucus. Farmers across the country are voicing their disappointment. Here in Arizona, the disappointment is far and wide.

“We are already starting to hear from farmers across the nation, many of whom are perplexed and outraged at this morning’s vote,” said American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Zippy Duvall. “They are facing very real financial challenges. We call on all members of Congress not to use farmers and ranchers as pawns in a political game. The risk management tools of the farm bill are too important, particularly at a time of depressed farm prices. We urge the House to pass H.R. 2 as soon as possible.”

Photo courtesy Yuma farmer Jonathan Dinsmore

Arizona Farm Bureau’s president also voiced her concern. “Farm income has dropped more than 50 percent in the last four years, the largest decline seen since the Great Depression,” said Stefanie Smallhouse, also a rancher with her husband in Pima County. “Much to the benefit of all American consumers, there have not been food shortages in this country since the first Farm Bill was passed in the recovery effort to bring the U.S. back from this dark time in our history. And not only does agriculture feed and clothe us, it also employs us: the food and agriculture sector supports more than 21 million U.S. jobs, including 138,000 full and part-time jobs right here in Arizona.”

Tiffany Shedd, candidate for Arizona’s Congressional District 1 and a partner with her husband, Rodney, in a cotton farm in Pinal county believes the farm bill is an investment in America. “The farm bill includes investments in rural broadband infrastructure, expands affordable healthcare coverage, and gives rural communities more tools to combat opioid abuse. It invests in locally-led conservation programs and directs the U.S. Forest Service to tackle forest health and wildfire prevention.”

She added, “The farm bill maintains and strengthens the nation’s nutrition programs to assist those who struggle to put food on the table while providing critical training to help people learn the skills necessary to gain well-paying jobs, financial self-sufficiently, and better futures for themselves and their families. The U.S. Chamber came out supporting the bill due to the meaningful work/job training requirements for able-bodied adults.”

The following is how the Arizona Congressional delegation voted on today’s farm bill.

·         Voted in favor: McSally, Lesko, Schweikert

·         Voted against: Biggs, Gosar, Gallego, Grijalva, O’Halleran, and Sinema

Democrats were expected to vote against final passage of the bill and it was anticipated that Freedom Caucus members were not completely on board, however, the outcome came as quite a disappointment to many.

Political analysts suggest a number of these caucus members defected from voting in support of H.R. 2, as they are using their vote as leverage to get the Goodlatte immigration bill on the floor for a vote.

“Today, instead of updating and improving our Farm Bill, Washington politicians used it to turn farm and ranch families into bargaining chips in global trade discussions and this country's immigration reform failures,” added Arizona Farm Bureau’s Smallhouse. “If Congress intends to just extend the current Farm Bill amid this farm economy while they bicker over immigration - an issue which has proven itself to be a political lead balloon - everyone will lose. We need Congress to stop playing politics with the security of our agricultural industry and our nation. This is not a Farm Bill - it's a National Food Security Bill!”

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