House Ag Committee members tout bipartisanship at Farm Bill listening session

Several members of the House Agriculture Committee took part in a listening session at the World Ag Expo in Tulare, California, yesterday. The delegation was led by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who was joined by lawmakers from California, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and North Carolina. It was the first official Farm Bill listening session of the year and much of the focus was on a bipartisan effort to get the legislation through Congress.

“We need to make the investment for the next generation of farmers because food safety is very important,” McCarthy said, “not just to America but to the world.” Congress renews the Farm Bill every five years. The legislation supports farmers, staple crops, nutrition programs, agriculture, as well as rural loans and rural development and infrastructure efforts. The bill traditionally has bipartisan support, though its renewal comes at a time when some Republicans want to cut federal spending–and have targeted the Farm Bill as a way to do so.

“We only spend 0.2% of the federal budget on production agriculture, and when you take into account the nutrition title, basically, the Farm Bill titles 2% of the entire federal budget on the industry that American families are most dependent on, each and every day,” Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.), who chairs the House Agriculture Committee, said during the event. “Although we’ve got to show some adult behavior and we’ve got to reduce spending … that should not be done on the backs of the hardworking families who provide us the food, the fiber, the building materials and the energy resources that every family in this country is so dependent on.”

McCarthy acknowledged that though there is bipartisan support for the reauthorization, it won’t be a slam dunk.

“When I was whip, a Farm Bill was the hardest bill to pass, and so I believe we’re starting on the right foot with [Thompson] as chairman, but also in a bipartisan way,” McCarthy said. “You know, the biggest optimists in the world are farmers. They believe that tomorrow is always going to be better than today. We want to make sure food is abundant, affordable and that the farmer is there for the next generation.”

Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif), who represents California’s 19th district on the state’s Central Coast, told a local newspaper that he believes the listening session demonstrated bipartisanship that isn’t experienced much lately.

“Yes, we’re going to have our differences. Yes, we have different crops. Yes, we have different interests when it comes to our agriculture,” Panetta said. “But we work to find our similarities, and that’s when we can come together on the Farm Bill. It’s one of the most bipartisan products that we in the U.S. Congress can put together.”