8.2.2012 Costa: Bring Real Relief to Farmers, Stop the Political Games

Washington, DC- When House Republicans offered a temporary disaster relief bill today, Rep. Jim Costa called for real relief for farmers. The House voted to advance H.R. 6233, the Agricultural Disaster Assistance Act of 2012, which would offer some disaster relief to farmers but fails to offer American and Valley agriculture the sort of certainty that only a five-year Farm Bill can. Costa opposed the measure because there is no acceptable replacement for the bipartisan Farm Bill.

“This drought relief package is more about giving Republican Leadership relief when they go back to their districts in August than helping out our nation’s farmers, ranchers, and dairymen,” said Costa. “There is no denying that action is needed to offer relief, but the best action is passing the Farm Bill. If they were serious about helping agriculture, we would be voting on the Farm Bill that won overwhelming support in the Agriculture Committee. Instead, we are working on patchwork measures that are more about politics than policy.”

The drought extension was opposed by a number of national and California agriculture organizations because they agreed with Costa that passing this bill would hurt the chances of Congress approving a five-year Farm Bill. Groups opposing H.R. 6233 include the American Farm Bureau Association, Western Growers, National Milk Producers Federation, United Fresh Produce Association, and the National Corn Growers Association among others.

Costa also took to the floor to offer an amendment that would protect American taxpayers and farmers by guaranteeing that all assistance would be limited to U.S.-owned agriculture producers and prevent duplicative payments. In their haste to pass this legislation, Republican Leadership failed to include critical taxpayer protections that typically exist in the Farm Bill.

His amendment also included a sense of Congress that it is imperative that the House approve the Farm Bill before the current law expires on September 30th. The amendment failed on a largely party line vote.

Costa said on the floor, “Most importantly this amendment gives every member here an opportunity to take a position on what ironically can be called the elephant in the room: that is, when is the House going to consider a 5-year farm bill to provide certainty and security to rural America?”

Had the House voted instead to approve the Farm Bill, the House and Senate could have gone to the conference committee during the August recess. This would have allowed ample time for compromise legislation to be crafted so both chambers could quickly approve the Farm Bill when they return from the district work period in September.

Costa has been pushing for the House to bring up the Farm Bill because it would bring real certainty to one of the bright spots in the American economy, agriculture. On July 11th, the House Agriculture Committee approved the 2012 Farm Bill with an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 35-11. Traditionally, the Farm Bill has been one of Congress’s most bipartisan efforts.