Eric Cantor to farmers: Passing newest farm bill ‘was pretty rough’

ericcantorU.S. Rep. Eric Cantor, R-7th, told members of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation board that an “unholy marriage between food stamps and farm policy” complicated Congress’ ability to pass the 2014 Farm Bill sooner than it did.

“The most difficult challenge of that bill is that 83 percent of it is the (federal) nutrition program” and the remaining 17 percent is related to production agriculture, Cantor noted at the board’s May 28 meeting. As specifics of the bill are finalized this summer in Washington, “I hope it gets a little easier, but it was pretty rough.”

Also complicating many pieces of legislation before Congress, he noted, is “that very unique but difficult balance of power” between a Republican-controlled House and a Democrat-controlled Senate and Democratic administration. “That balance hasn’t been that way since 1859,” and it has been marked by “very many colliding views.”

One of those collisions was a stumbling block for the farm bill, Cantor noted, explaining that, with regard to the bill’s nutrition elements, “there is a real commitment in the House to stop piling up the debt every single year and leaving it to our kids.” Since 2008, he said, Americans’ use of federal nutrition assistance has doubled, and Republicans wanted to emulate welfare-to-work policies implemented in the 1990s and establish accountability among assistance recipients.

Cantor acknowledged that the current U.S. economy is a concern for farmers and many other business operators. “It’s not easy” to remedy a downturn quickly, he said, but at times “it seems as if Washington is doing everything it possibly can to make it more difficult.”

He cited the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed “Waters of the U.S.” rule as an example. The rule would put significantly more water-use decisions previously made by states under EPA control and put significantly more control over bodies of water on farms nationwide.

The rule would create more risk for smaller farms and other businesses, he said, “and no one’s going to take that risk if the price of that risk is too high.”

VFBF and the American Farm Bureau Federation are participating in a campaign urging the EPA to “Ditch the Rule.”

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