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House Committees Clash On Ag Program Cuts

Several years ago when the 2008 Farm Bill was being negotiated, many in the cotton industry wondered if House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson was a friend of the cotton industry. Many were curious if he understood the problems of Southern row-crop agriculture. Fast forward to 2011, and I think we have the answer to those questions.

In fact, Peterson has and continues to be one of cotton’s best friends. He helped put together a 2008 Farm Bill that eventually became acceptable to the industry, despite the usual number of attacks from critics inside and outside Washington.

The congressman, who now is the Ranking Member of the House Ag Committee, has once again proven how protective and sympathetic he is to cotton and other commodities. Peterson recently went on the offensive and wrote a letter to the House Rules Committee and scolded the House Appropriations Committee for adopting amendments that would “effectively amend the 2008 Farm Bill.”

In particular, Peterson was angry that the Appropriations Committee passed a bill that contained large reductions in many of the programs authorized and funded through the 2008 Farm Bill. He contends that “decisions on how much mandatory spending should be allocated to programs that benefit farmers, researchers and others should be made by the authorizing committee, not appropriators.”

Translated another way, the House Ag Committee should be the committee to make those decisions and not the Appropriations Committee. In the midst of this deficit-cutting environment, it’s nice to know that agriculture has an ally in Rep. Peterson. The congressman pointed out that agriculture is more than willing to do its part in this effort to trim the deficit. But the industry doesn’t get nearly enough credit for what it has already done in this regard, and it certainly doesn’t deserve to have its programs put on the chopping block by a committee other than Ag Committee.

Is this a case of a turf battle in the House? If you read Peterson’s letter, he quotes the laws that spell out the jurisdiction of the two committees, and he appears to be completely justified in his actions.

Let’s hope the House Rules Committee responds to Peterson’s letter and understands the importance of preserving these ag programs, which help keep the farm safety net in place. And let’s allow the House Ag Committee to make the decisions about agriculture.