In his latest EC from DC report, Fifth District Congressman Emanuel Cleaver writes about the House's passage of the Farm Bill this week.
It may not have seemed like time stopped for a moment on Wednesday, but in my mind, it did. Amidst all of the chaos, conflict, and political posturing that has been going on in what has been dubbed a ‘Cantankerous and Do-Nothing Congress’ – something big happened. Something really big. The United States House of Representatives passed the Agriculture Act of 2014 (H.R. 2642). This, in and of itself, is a critically important piece of legislation. Beyond the bill, it marked a moment of bipartisanship that is all too infrequent these days.
H.R. 2642 provides a framework for farmers, ranchers, and producers in Missouri’s Fifth District to now move forward, with certainty and security. It also prevents the massive and abhorrent cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) previously proposed. There are still cuts in the SNAP program in this bill. I am not in favor of those smaller cuts, and will make no bones about that. But after speaking with numerous constituents, organizations, and groups in my district, from farmers to food pantries, there was support for this piece of legislation. I believe we have a good bill that will now go to the Senate.
It has taken us two years to get to this point, and this comprehensive five year bill was desperately needed. It provides economic security, a framework for future investment, a focus on protecting the food basket of our country, and on feeding the hungry. Did I get everything I would have wanted in this bill? No. But this is a solid start. And because of that, as I have often done in the past, I voted against many in my own party to support this legislation. I did so because I believe this is what is good for Missouri’s Fifth District.
There are several items included in this bill that offer opportunities to expand our efforts toward those needing assistance putting food on the table. There are programs to feed our seniors and our students, to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables, to promote the sale of our products overseas while bettering our economy here at home, as well as provisions designed to protect our soil and water, and step up our research programs at universities.
I was also pleased to see that the House Agriculture Committee acted on the concerns I, and other Midwestern lawmakers, raised through bill H.R. 1454 regarding the Supplemental Livestock Disaster Programs. Now there is a permanent baseline for the first time for the livestock disaster programs. Of great importance, too, is the fact that the aid is retroactive back to 2011. The Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-Raised Fish will get $20 million each year.
There are many issues Congress will tackle in the coming months. Issues that impact us on every level, from the amount of taxes we pay, our nation’s debt, our economic vitality, job creation, a transportation bill, immigration reform, extending emergency unemployment insurance, minimum wage increases, and the list goes on and on. It is my deepest hope, this moment of bipartisanship, will not be fleeting but sustained. In order to do right by those who have entrusted us to serve, we must listen, hear, and act for the benefit of all.