Two Minnesotans attend national conservation meeting
By Janet Kubat Willette
Date Modified: 08/13/2012 12:54 PM
Mark Zabel expected he would be going to Washington, D.C., to urge passage of the farm bill from the House agriculture committee.
Instead, he and others gathered for the National Association of Conservation Districts meeting pushed for the farm bill tol be heard on the House floor.
Zabel, of Carver County, and Ed McNamara, of Goodhue County, attended the NACD Summer Board Meeting and Legislative Conference from July 13-17.
They met with legislative staff on July 17, Zabel said.
The version of the farm bill that passed the House agriculture committee cuts $6 billion from Title 2, the conservation title. The NACD is pretty comfortable with that, though it is a deeper cut than in the farm bill submitted to the supercommittee last fall, he said. Most important, the NACD says is getting a farm bill passed.
"The clock is ticking. The farm bill runs out on Sept. 30 and there are very few session days left," said Zabel, who is vice president of the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts.
There's a real risk there may not be a farm bill, he said.
Speaker of the House John Boehner hasn't allowed the farm bill to come to the floor for a vote and there has been talk of a one-year extension of the current farm bill.
Zabel said he doesn't see a one-year extension as a positive as it resets the farm bill process yet again.
He also heard while in Washington that there may not be enough votes to pass the farm bill even if it's heard on the floor. Some on both sides of the aisle say that since crop insurance and the food stamp program have a ongoing appropriation, there is no need to act.
No action means other farm bill programs that don't have an ongoing appropriation would revert to circa 1940 language.
If farm bill language reverts to 1940, there are a lot of unknown impacts, said LeAnn Buck, MASWCD executive director.
When she was in Washington in February, farm bill discussion included the fact that the agriculture committees were the only ones to come forward with a bill to meet the supercommittee deadline. A failure to enact across-the-board cuts as agreed to last August in the budget showdown will mean deeper cuts in non-protected areas, including agriculture.
Zabel said the staffers they talked to were pessimistic about the bill coming to the House floor, but optimistic that if it does, there is a chance for passage.
If the bill passes, staffers said, there will be a quick conference with the Senate version of the farm bill.