Murphy meets with local farmers over stalled farm bill

Published Jul 7, 2013 at 7:06 pm (Updated Jul 7, 2013 at 7:06 pm)

Don Gardner is considered one of the finest farmers in Washington County, where he was named 2013 Farmer of the Year by the Washington County Conservation District for the conservation work he performed on his land.

But Gardner, of Lone Pine, said he wouldn’t last a day in farming without other sources of income, including subsidies farmers like him stand to lose with the federal farm bill in limbo in Congress.

“If I didn’t have outside money, I could not afford to farm,” he said on July 3 at a farmers town hall meeting in Amwell Township organized by U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy.

“Look, if we don’t pass this farm bill, it’s going to revert back to the 1930s,” Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, said at the start of the meeting attended by a dozen people in the Amwell Township municipal building. While the bill passed the U.S. Senate, the $940 billion House version died 234-195 June 20.

Among the reasons the bill failed were concerns over cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, an increase in crop insurance subsidies, a dispute over reductions in the food stamps program and the bill’s failure, according to some, to adequately address conservation concerns.

Local farmers expressed concerns on July 3 to Murphy that it didn’t make sense for elected officials to be voting on farms and food stamps in the same bill, even though the U.S. Agriculture Department would be too small to exist if it just represented farmers. They also said the disaster program for drought relief needs to stay in existence.

“We don’t need people who need food stamps voting on our farm bill,” said Gardner, 82.

Murphy said he was surprised the farm bill died and blamed its failure on vocal minorities on the far left and far right. He said the far right was especially concerned about the perception the bill would have given subsidies to large corporate farmers.

Without a new bill, the government, Murphy said, will have to revert back to such old ways of thinking as purchasing powdered milk at auction.

“I think it’s an important bill,” Murphy said. “Will there be another farm bill? I don’t know.”

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