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Boehner aides rebuff corn growers’ call for farm bill action; Lucas and Peterson still sounding optimistic

By JERRY HAGSTROM

Noting the severe drought afflicting the Midwest, Ohio corn growers asked aides to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, today to bring the farm bill to the House floor, but the aides did not signal that the bill will come up any time soon, a key Ohio corn grower leader told The Hagstrom Report late today. (See clarification below)

Tadd Nicholson
Tadd Nicholson
When a group of Ohio growers met with the Boehner aides today, “We didn’t hear a path forward that was an optimistic way to get it to the floor,” Tadd Nicholson, executive director of the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers, said at the CornFest reception.

Nicholson said the Boehner aides told him there is “too much of a divide” over the bill to bring it to the floor

Nicholson said that taking the bill that the House Agriculture Committee passed straight to conference with the Senate-passed bill, and then taking that conference report to the floor of the House and Senate, “has a better shot.” The Boehner aides gave the Ohioans the impression that the House Agriculture Committee's bill “has no shot” of getting passed in the House, Nicholson said.

Nicholson noted that Boehner represents the second-largest agriculture district in Ohio, and that state growers believe that House leaders should figure out a way to act on the bill.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio

Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio
Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, one of the few House members to attend the reception in the Hart Senate Office Building, said that Boehner “should reconsider because agriculture is Ohio’s biggest business.”

Noting that Boehner had removed some biodegradable bags made of corn that were used in the Longworth House Office Building Cafeteria, Kaptur added that Boehner “needs to get in touch with his Ohio roots.”

Pam Johnson

Pam Johnson
Pam Johnson, a Floyd, Iowa, corn grower who is the vice president of the National Corn Growers Association, said she had not met with House members but that she sees no reason the House should not take up the farm bill.

“The drought is a wake-up call and a visible reminder of why we write farm bill. It just plain needs to be done,” Johnson said in an interview.

“They’d better come up with a good reason why this isn’t moving in light of what is going on in the countryside,” Johnson said. “I’ve heard the reasons, and I haven’t heard a good one yet.”

The Ohio corn growers’ experience appears to cast cold water on optimistic statements that House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Ohio, and ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., made this week.

Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla.

Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla.
In an interview with the AgriTalk radio network on Monday, Lucas said that even though Boehner has been critical of the dairy provisions he believes that addressing those concerns is “what the floor process is for. That’s why we have amendments and we punch it out on the floor.”

Lucas added that he has been “impressing” upon the leadership that “when we have floor time – and it’s not if, in my mind, it’s when – when we have floor time, I need a rule that requires a filing requirement the day before. I need to have time to see, and for my committee lawyers and my committee economists and my colleagues to see what will be offered on the floor to sort it out.”

If Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., are going to allow an unlimited number of amendments, “I need just a little concession from my leadership,” Lucas said. “If they’re going to let all these amendments be offered, I need a little concession that we have time to know what’s in the amendment so we can explain, on the floor, to our colleagues, what’s in the amendments.”

Lucas also said he is “a regular-order kind of guy, and that’s the way I prefer to go, but that he has also already initiated conversations with Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., about beginning the conference on areas of common agreement.

He also said he is still willing to acknowledge that there might have to be an extension for a year of existing policy.

Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn.

Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn.
Peterson told AgriTalk on Tuesday that he thinks a big issue is whether the Republican leadership will insist on a “wide-open rule or are they going to have some kind of modified closed rule, which is what we did in 2008.”

Peterson said he would prefer a modified closed rule that would limit the number of amendments to 20 or 30.

“We had 97 amendments that we considered in the committee,” he said. “Some of them were redundant. We were arguing the same thing over and over again. That’s what’s going to happen on the floor. If you open this thing wide open, you’re going to have people offering the same amendment over and over, different iterations, and that doesn’t really accomplish anything.”

Peterson said he believes he and Lucas can get a bill through the House.

“Frank and I will lock arms and try to keep the bill in the shape it came out of the committee, but we’ll accept the will of the House. Then we’ll move on to conference and deal with the Senate. And I still think we can get this done by September 30th, and we should,” he said.



Ohio corn, wheat leader clarifies statements about Boehner farm bill views



The leader of the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers said Thursday that statements he gave The Hagstrom Report Wednesday on poor prospects for passing the farm bill this year were based on conversations with staff from congressional offices other than aides to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

Tadd Nicholson, executive director of the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers, said that he had not personally been in the meeting with Boehner staff and apologized for not being clear about where his impressions came from.

“Although I didn’t hear a lot of optimism from other offices, I think the speaker is working behind the scenes to get the farm bill done before,” Nicholson said in a telephone interview. “Make no mistake, we are here to maintain optimism to pass the bill,” Nicholson added, referring to members of the National Corn Growers Association who are lobbying in Washington this week.

Jack Irvin, another Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers staff member, said in a telephone interview that he had participated in the meeting with Boehner aides, and that the meeting had focused on the corn growers’ view that the bill should move forward and go to conference with the Senate.

Boehner’s staff was “receptive” to their arguments and concerned about the drought, Irvin said.

Neither the Ohio corn growers nor Boehner’s staff delved into the differences between the House and Senate bills over food stamps or other issues, Urban said.