Combest on Farm Bill: If it Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It

House ag leader says he doesn't recall in his lifetime a farm bill being this popular with farmers five minutes, let alone five years after it passed.

Congress is more likely to extend the current Farm Bill now that World Trade Organization talks have suspended, former House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest, R-Texas, stated this week at the 23rd International Sweetener Symposium.

"It seems to me that before Members of Congress will be willing to step off of the ground they are currently on, they will want to be very certain that the ground on the other side is worth crossing rough political waters to get to," Combest says of the political and policy difficulties of writing a new bill without any assurances against trade litigation that would have come from a finalized WTO deal.

The likelihood of an extension is also bolstered by the popularity of current farm legislation.

"In my lifetime, I do not recall a farm bill being this popular with farmers five minutes, let alone five years, after it passed," says Combest, the architect of the current legislation. "Considering the current leaders of both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees played key roles in this popular bill's development, I would expect the 2007 Farm Bill to closely track the current law. After all, if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

The American Sugar Alliance joins the two largest farm groups - American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union - in supporting a farm bill extension.

Combest added that the smartest thing for Congress to do heading into this year's contentious elections would be to show a strong commitment to the economic concerns of rural America by passing a farm bill extension.

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