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Agriculture doesn't go over the cliff

By from news reports

Date Modified: 02/05/2013 4:19 PM

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WASHINGTON — Lawmakers narrowly managed to avoid going over the fiscal cliff on Jan. 1, but their solution is yet another short-term fix to a long-term problem.

Iowa's senators, Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley, both voted against the 11th hour agreement. In the House, the delegation split along party lines with Democrats Bruce Braley, Dave Loesack and Leonard Boswell voting in favor of the measure and Republicans Steve King and Tom Latham voting no.

Grassley said he voted against the fiscal cliff deal because:

• It increases taxes at a time of high unemployment and it's not good to take capital out of the private sector at a time like this.

• It raises the estate tax.

• It doesn't include spending reductions. The spending in the sequester was delayed until March 1, but not paid for.

It's a 'fiscal farce," he said.

Harkin said the legislation failed to address the nation's No. 1 priority, creating good, middle class jobs in Iowa and throughout the nation. Further, he said, it doesn't needed revenue.

"I am all for compromise, but a compromise that sets a new tax threshold for the wealthiest Americans while neglecting the very backbone of our country — the middle class — is a compromise I simply cannot support. This is the wrong direction for Iowa and our country," Harkin said.

Congressman King agreed with Harkin, saying the bill was bad for the nation.

"There are a number of provisions in this bill that I support, such as those addressing the alternative minimum tax, the farm bill extension and the production tax credit for wind and biodiesel and making certain tax policies permanent, but I'm not for the permanent and accelerated growth in out debt and deficit," King said.

Braley took a different view of the legislation.

"This legislation would cut taxes for over 99 percent of Iowans, help keep food and milk prices low by renewing the farm bill for nine months, encourage Iowa investment by extending the wind energy production tax credit, help more children find loving homes by permanently extending the adoption tax credit, keep doctors practicing in Iowa by preventing a cut in Medicare reimbursements and reduce the cost of college tuition for Iowa families," he said.

Latham said the compromise contained some provisions he agree with, such as extending the farm bill, but it lacked a critical component of making necessary spending cuts.

Most farm groups were disappointed with the passage of the nine-month farm bill extension. Most had thrown their support behind the five-year farm bill passed by the Senate and the similar bill passed by the House agriculture committee.

The House ag committee bill never came up for a vote on the House floor.

Grassley called the nine-month extension bittersweet.

"We worked for six months or longer on very needed reforms and it's disappointing that the House did not act," he said.

The farm bill extension does give farmers certainty for the 2013 crop year.

"Now we need to get to work and get a long-term bill passed," Grassley said. "The Senate proved it can be done."

With the start of a new Congress, lawmakers must start anew on another farm bill, their third attempt to write the 2012 farm bill.

When they start the process of writing that bill remains to be seen.

Grassley said the process will likely start in the House agriculture committee on Feb. 26, but agriculture committee leaders may not be eager to start over so quickly.

Agriculture committee leaders were pushed aside in the final deal negotiated by Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican.

Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, the lead Democrat and ranking member on the House agriculture committee, has said he will not begin working on a new farm bill unless he has assurances from leadership that it will be brought up on the floor.

On Jan. 3, Peterson sent letters to House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor asking for a written commitment that the leadership will find floor time for a new five-year farm bill.

"At this point, however, I see no reason why the House agriculture committee should undertake the fool's errand to craft another long-term farm bill if the Republican leadership refuses to give any assurances that our bipartisan work will be considered," Peterson wrote in his letter to Boehner. "You and your leadership team seem very content with simply extending the 2008 farm bill year after year without making any effort at reform, achieving savings and efficiences or improving the farm safety net for rural America. If that is your goal, I will certainly accommodate you."

Agri News senior staff writer Jean Caspers-Simmet contributed to this article.