Barrasso discusses 2007 Farm BillWritten by Jennifer Womack
Following a technical error and widespread confusion, the bill became law prior to the Memorial Day recess. A printing error, which resulted in only 14 of the bill’s 15 titles being included, was sent to and vetoed by the president. That same legislation was overridden by Congress and became law before the error was discovered. Congress is expected to take up the remaining section, which addresses food aid and other international programs, when it returns from the Memorial Day recess.
“I voted for it and to override the veto of the president,” says Barrasso, but also says he was part of a group seeking amendments to cut back increased spending included in the legislation. “There’s some really good parts to it for Wyoming.” Like all legislation he’s seen over the course of his 11 months in D.C., Barrasso says amidst the bill’s nearly 700 pages there were good things and not-so-good things. Among the bright spots he says is increased funding for conservation programs administered through the Natural Resource Conservation Service.
According to a report on the 2008 Farm Bill compiled by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association an additional $4.4 billion is being divided between the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). Individual EQIP dollars are not to exceed $300,000 over six years, but can be extended to $400,000 under special circumstances for significant projects.
Barrasso also applauds what he describes as the “first ever permanent program to help farmers and ranchers through tough times.” According to the NCBA report, a $3.807 billion permanent disaster program was part of the bill. Benefits will be available for those ranchers who purchase Non-insured Agricultural Program (NAP) coverage in the case of drought, wildfires or flood.
“I think it’s a good bill for Wyoming,” says Barrasso also noting the inclusion of country of origin labeling and language that could allow meat products from inspected facilities to be shipped across state lines. Barrasso was disappointed the ban on packer ownership wasn’t included in the legislation. Language that would have created an Office of Special Counsel to enforce the Packers and Stockyards Act was also removed.
Of the frustration that surrounded the legislation and the large amount of time it took to pass the bill Barrasso comments, “Senator Enzi and I are always asking the question, ‘How do you change the way Washington works and make it work more like Wyoming?’” Enzi’s separation of his healthcare efforts into separate pieces of legislation, says Barrasso, is one example of a step in that direction as one topic at a time is addressed instead of a multifaceted package.
Barrasso says he’s heard several comments from those in Wyoming agriculture that the food and nutrition aspects of the farm bill need to be handled separately. Nutrition aspects of the legislation, according to the American Farmland Trust, grew by $10.4 billion when compared to the last bill. According to FarmPolicyFacts.org, nearly 70 percent of farm bill funding is allocated to nutrition programs and providing food for those most in need.
As for his time in Washington to date Barrasso says, “No bill has been perfect, but there is enough good in this bill for Wyoming.”
“Ag,” says Barrasso, “is still one of the most trusted, respected and revered ways of life in America. I work as a matter of principal on the fundamental belief that people involved in agriculture are the best stewards of the land. They need tax relief, to be able to deduct the cost of health insurance and we need to remove regulations that make their lives tougher. We need to override the death tax and we need to open markets for Wyoming products.”
Barrasso, earlier this month, announced his intentions to seek election to the office he was appointed to fill when U.S. Senator Craig Thomas passed away.