By Christine Haughney
THE FARMERS’ PERSPECTIVE HEARD IN D.C.: It may be one of the most inconvenient times of year for farmers to leave their ranches and fields behind to travel to Washington. But all this week, your host has been chatting with farmers who flocked to Capitol Hill to offer their personal views on the farm bill.
“We probably should be in the fields or tending livestock,” said Jake Davis, a family farmer from Central Missouri who raises hogs, fresh produce and flowers with his wife, Chelsea. “We only get a farm bill once every five years.”
Pleas to the King: Davis, who is also policy director for Family Farm Action, was one of about 15 farmers who delivered a letter to Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) asking him to withdraw his amendment from the House farm bill, which they say hurt laws involving the handling of infections livestock and seed quality standards. “We were obviously worried about some cuts to rural development,” said Davis about the King amendment.
Pitching for checkoff transparency: Many of the farmers in town were eager for lawmakers to make public the work of commodity checkoff programs. They are watching for an amendment related to this that Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) are expected to add when the bill comes to the floor of the Senate.
“I believe they understand that regardless of the program or the issue, everybody is for transparency,” said Chris Petersen, an Iowa hog farmer who is on the board of the Organization for Competitive Markets. “I see the checkoff issue as moving forward and hopefully it will be reformed.”
Feeling supported by congressional staff members: Farmers who spoke with MA seemed to feel that their views were well-received. “Many of the staff had had five, six and seven meetings on those issues that same day,” Davis said. “I think those folks are genuinely trying to educate themselves on the interests of family farmers.”