About 80 state agricultural leaders will travel to the nation’s capital April 14-18 to discuss agricultural issues with lawmakers as a part of the annual Oklahoma Farm Bureau Congressional Action Tour.
The leaders will discuss agricultural issues – particularly the farm bill – with members of the Oklahoma congressional delegation.
"This year’s trip comes at an opportune time," said Jeramy Rich, OFB public policy director, "since conferees are meeting to discuss the Senate and House farm bill versions. The vote could come at about any time, maybe even when our group is there."
Both the Senate and House have passed their own versions of the farm bill. It is currently under consideration by a conference committee that will draft a compromise between the two versions. Farm bill conferences typically take less than a month to finish.
Rich said the House and Senate farm bills differ substantially on some issues of top concern, and many feel that the conference negotiation will be the most important phase in the quest to replace the 1996 farm bill, which expires in September.
The House bill, H.R. 2646, total about 400 pages, and the Senate bill, S. 1731, with all the amendments passed during Senate consideration, weighs in at about 1,300 pages.
"Our leaders will express strong opinions on some aspects of the two different pieces of legislation that are of great concern to Oklahoma agriculture," he continued.
The OFB delegation will urge the state’s members of Congress to work to oppose provisions in the Senate bill which transfer water rights from private hands to the federal government, and will also ask that language placing limits on payments to cotton, rice and peanut farmers be deleted.
The farm bill affects many of the most basic needs of the American public – food, health, the environment and domestic security. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, in addition to farm programs and trade provisions, farm bills typically include sections on food assistance, conservation and the environment, rural development, research and education and provisions such as global warming, food safety and animal health and welfare.
Rich said the Farm Bureau group also will urge the state’s delegation to support trade promotion authority (formerly fast track) for the president.
"That will put him back in the driver’s seat for the WTO negotiations that begin early next fall."
The Oklahoma group will meet individually with all members of the state congressional delegation as well as top U.S. Department of Agriculture officials and American Farm Bureau Federation staff and leaders.
Many members of the OFB group are county presidents or hold other leadership positions. Others are Women’s Committee members or representatives of the Young Farmers and Ranchers.
"This definitely will be a working trip, getting our leaders involved in the policy process right in the nation’s capital," Rich concluded.
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Contact: Sam Knipp