Is it me or are these Farm Bills coming faster and faster? The House Agriculture Committee has stated that they will begin Farm Bill hearings in the spring, first in Washington, D.C., and then around the country.
My first reaction upon hearing this news was, “What? You gotta be kidding me? Already?” My second reaction was, “Here we go with the dog-and-pony-show again.”
I admit that I am jaded about the whole Farm Bill process, but it is only because I’ve been through several of them now. Producer groups and state associations spend months in discussion on what they want in the Farm Bill. They spend weeks collecting figures and data about the state of the industry and in preparing a well thought out and concise statement. They spend hours preparing to give the address and give up a day of work at planting time to attend the hearing, and then for 15 minutes they pour out their heart in an effort to save the profession they chose as their life’s work.
And what do they get in return, “Thank you. Next!” Okay, maybe it’s not that bad, but I really am left wondering if the congressman and committee members ever really listen. Later in the year, when the committee releases their version of the next Farm Bill, I will likely say, “They didn’t listen at all.”
But, what is the alternative? Not participating? That is not really an option either. If you don’t participate, you are sure never to be heard. So, the industry will do all of the above in hopes that someone will at least listen to some of what is being said.
What’s much more important then these hearings are the relationships built over time with the congressmen representing peanut districts and their staff and the committee staff. The phone calls, emails, letters and trips to Washington, D.C., let those folks know you are still here, you are not going away and you need their assistance to stay in business and keep rural America strong.
A good resource for legislative matters, besides your state association directors, is www.americanpeanuts.com, produced by the Georgia Peanut Commission. It offers up-to-date legislative news, votes and “action alerts,” and it can assist you in contacting your congressman about these important matters. Take the time to check it out as this process gets underway again.