Stalled Farm Bill Could Harm Rural Republicans

How Democrats could emerge the big winners in D.C.'s inability to pass a new bill.
Montana's GOP U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg has come under fire from constituents over the House's inaction on the Farm Bill. (Photo: Getty Images). 
Sep 28, 2012
Clare Leschin-Hoar's stories on seafood and food politics have appeared in Scientific American, Eating Well and elsewhere.

The GOP-controlled House of Representatives' inability to pass the 2012 Farm Bill may end up costing them during the November elections.

"The Farm Bill has increasingly become an influential factor in election races across the country," writes Christopher Doering for Gannet. "Democratic challengers have turned up the heat on their Republican counterparts in rural districts, placing the beleaguered bill in the center of the political discussion."

Opponents vying for seats aren't the only ones pressing for action on the Farm Bill. In Great Falls, Mont., nearly 30 people protested in front of GOP U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg's headquarters on Wednesday, despite the fact that he signed a petition to force a vote on the bill.

RELATED: If You Eat, You Need to Know: 5 Facts About the Farm Bill

"The drought has really hit hard," rancher and farmer Elsie Tuss told the Great Falls Tribune. "If we don't have some support like crop insurance, disaster payments and prices supports -- where do we go from here? How do we pay our bills? How are we going to put food on the table?"

Other protesters expressed concerns over the national school lunch program or proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, all of which fall under the Farm Bill umbrella.

In Idaho, dairy farmers are upset over the lack of action on the Farm Bill as well.

"We harvest a crop every day, 365 days of the year," said Bob Naerebout, director of the Idaho Dairymens Association, which  pressed lawmakers to act. "It's critical for us to have stability in the farm bill."

The current Farm Bill expires on Monday, but funding for most programs will continue through the end of the year.

Montana and Idaho politicians aren't the only ones baring the brunt of disgruntled voters. The stalled Farm Bill could also impact races in Iowa, South Dakota, Illinois, Wisconsin, Colorado, North Dakota and Indiana.

We told you about the close race between Iowa U.S. Rep. Steve King, (R) and opponent Christie Vilsack (D), wife of Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, last week. Turns out King was the only Iowa congressman that chose not to sign the petition that would force a vote on the Farm Bill, despite having a seat on the powerful House Agriculture Committee.

It's not the only close race in Iowa. Thanks to a district redrawing, Democrat incumbent Leonard Boswell is running against another incumbent, Tom Latham (R). Boswell is pointing the finger at Latham, saying the languishing Farm Bill is an issue of lack of leadership. Ouch.

And in South Dakota, industry watchers say it could be the deciding issue in a race between incumbent Kristi Noem (R) and opponent Matt Varilek (D).

Ed Schafer, secretary of agriculture under George W. Bush told Gannett that uncertainty in the Farm Bill's final language means uncertainty for those tied to the ag economy.

"Politically it's starting to" gain momentum, Schafer said. "Political campaigns are going to grasp anything they can, and this is an issue, especially in agriculture states."

More On the Farm Bill:

2012 Farm Bill May Be Decided Behind Closed Doors

Famous Foodies Unite to Pressure Congress on the Farm Bill

If You Eat, You Need to Know: 5 Facts About the Farm Bill

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