“Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.’
– Dwight D. Eisenhower

When Minnesota’s First District Congressman Tim Walz referred to this quote, he expressed the frustration that was on the faces of the majority of those sitting in a forum held the morning of Tuesday, Aug. 6,  at Farmfest.

“We seem to have a lot of pencil plowers in Washington right now,” he said.

The forum topic “Reaching an Endpoint on a New Farm Bill” was something legislators and farm organizations had hoped would be in the past when Farmfest began, but instead of talking about implementing the new federal farm bill the discussion focused on the stalemate in Washington, D.C.
As people ask him when the farm bill is going to be done, for the first time in his career, Minnesota’s Seventh District Congressman Collin Peterson said he has to tell them he does not know.

It’s not that Peterson is out of the loop when it comes to the farm bill.

As the ranking Democrat on the House Ag Committee, Peterson has been very active in the farm bill’s creation, and as the past chair of the committee he began the process in 2010 by conducting a series of hearings to get the input of farmers.

When the bill passed through the House Ag Committee, it had been approved by a majority of the Republicans and Democrats who serve on the committee, including both Peterson and Walz.

It was this bipartisan approval that led many to think the bill would easily pass through the House.

That obviously did not happen. Instead what occurred in the House was a split of the farm bill into what is known as the farm only portion and the food and nutrition portion – known as SNAP or food stamps. Food stamps have been part of the farm bill since the early 1970s.

“I did not vote for the split bill,” said Peterson.

The food portion of the bill has not been voted on in the House, and Peterson said he has been told by House leadership that is going to be taken up as soon as Congress goes back into session in September.

Once that vote has been taken the House would appoint conferees to the process of creating a compromise bill both the House and Senate create.

The farm bill, which was extended until Sept. 30, needs to meet that deadline, or some of the programs offered in the farm bill would come to an end.

Peterson said he is very uncertain about the fate of the farm bill, adding he is not very optimistic at this point.