WyFB members hear from congressional delegation
Cheyenne – At Wyoming Farm Bureau’s legislative meeting, all three members of Wyoming’s congressional delegation provided updates on events occurring in Washington, D.C.
Representative Cynthia Lummis and Senators John Barrasso and Mike Enzi all commented on the issues that Wyoming agriculture is facing in Washington.
For bills in Congress that are currently moving, the congressional delegation marked the Farm Bill, the Grazing Improvement Act and a recently introduced Good Neighbor forestry bill.
“I think the Farm Bill will move forward,” commented Enzi. “We are looking at getting more risk management in it and a lot fewer subsidies.”
Barrasso also noted that while there is less controversy in the agriculture programs of the Farm Bill, without support from the nutrition program advocates, it would be difficult to pass a bill.
Lummis noted that the House made deeper cuts in nutrition programs in the Farm Bill in an attempt to curb people from taking undue advantage of social safety nets.
“Hopefully we’ll have a bill this year when the extension expires,” she commented.
“I appreciate the support, and we are making progress,” Enzi added.
Barrasso noted that he is working on his grazing reform act again this year, and a companion bill is also being introduced in the House of Representatives.
Also in his focus is the Good Neighbor forestry bill, recently introduced.
“The role of the Department of Agriculture is to promote agriculture and American business,” said Barrasso. “It doesn’t seem that we are there with this administration.”
Barrasso additionally mentioned meatless Monday, rules against youth labor on farms and dust regulations as other challenges that agriculture has been forced to face recently in Washington, D.C.
Lummis marked excessive regulation as being particularly problematic for agriculture.
“The Federal Register comes out once a week. If you pile them up over a year, it is 14 feet high,” said Lummis, noting that the paper is thin and the print is tiny in the document. “It is impossible for people to digest, read, understand and implement the rules.”
She further noted that the people who are supposed to enforce the rules are in a similar situation, saying that they are unable to enforce rules they don’t understand.
Regulatory overreach and control through utilizing executive and secretarial orders also present a problem.
Enzi noted that he also is working to increase exports.
“We got it done in Korea and Columbia. Now they are talking about doing an agreement in Europe,” he said. “However, there is no ag part to the agreement. We don’t need a trade agreement unless we can get agriculture into it.”
Enzi also marked recent successes in getting cattle under 30 months into Japan as positive.
“China has told me they are going to go with the same deal that happened in Korea, so that should increase some sales,” he said.
At the end of the day, Enzi asked agriculture producers to continue to educate him on the topics that are important for Wyoming agriculture.
Spending concerns in Washington, D.C. are a continuing issue.
“They did make some necessary changes and savings have been built into the Farm Bill – whether that be in food stamps or in agriculture,” Enzi explained, “but the other side wants to spend that money on new programs instead of reducing spending.”
Enzi continued that program duplication in Washington, D.C. is expensive and unnecessary.
“The president has about 30 new programs, and all of them have a cost,” said Enzi. “We aren’t funding the things that we do well, and we want to go and do a whole bunch more things.”
He further added, “There is a lot of duplication in government that we need to get rid of.”
As an example, Enzi said that on his arrival in Congress, 119 programs addressed preschool education. Today, due to his work, there are only 69 programs that he can no longer consolidate because they aren’t in his jurisdiction.
“I think we could eliminate duplication and eliminate expenses,” he said.
Lummis echoed Enzi’s comments on spending, saying, “When I was on the ag appropriations committee, I saw how many programs the federal government has whose authorization have expired, but we continue to fund them.”
She further noted that in the Department of the Interior, EPA and Forest Service budgets alone, $6 billion is being spent on programs for which the authorization has lapsed.
“We need to cut off funding and cut it off now,” Lummis said, speaking specifically one such policy – the Endangered Species Act.
With the sequester pending to cut spending, Enzi remarked, “The sequester will happen, and I don’t think that will be bad.”
The sequester return the U.S. government back to 2008 levels of spending.
“It is about time we got back, instead of ever-increasing spending,” Enzi commented. “My biggest worry is that they will cut spending on those things that are most visible, which are the things they do best. I don’t think cuts of this size are going to make a difference.”
“It would be nice if we could get away from living crisis to crisis,” said Enzi. “We have to stop deal-making and start legislating.”