Leaving town and leaving farmers adrift

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Throughout this year, our country has faced unpredictable and extreme weather. These record-breaking conditions have challenged our nation’s farmers, including the hardworking farmers of Western New York.
 
In speaking with farmers in my district, it has become abundantly clear that what they need is certainty in federal farm programs. Yet, for the last three months, Republicans in the House of Representatives have ignored a bipartisan five-year farm bill that was overwhelmingly approved by Republicans and Democrats in the Senate. In the process, they’ve ignored the voices of American farmers, neglected their duty to govern, and all but cemented their legacy as leaders of the least productive Congress in history.
 
Because of Republican failure to compromise, our current farm bill will expire on September 30th with significant consequences throughout our agricultural sector. With expiration of the farm bill, dairy farmers will lose what little safety net they have. Expiration of the farm bill could severely disadvantage American farmers who are competing in a modern global marketplace.
 
Most importantly, expiration of our farm bill means jobs on and off the farm are at risk. Farmers will struggle to secure advance funding for planting next year’s crops, and such hardship will create uncertainty in rural economies. As many Republican talking heads are fond of saying, uncertainty is bad for our economy. Yet their failure to pass a bipartisan Senate farm bill is creating uncertainty today.
 
During my time in public service I have had the great opportunity to work on behalf of Western New York farmers. Every time, helping farmers has been a bipartisan concern. I worked to establish the New York Wine and Grape Foundation while serving in the New York State Assembly, worked to ensure research opportunities for our specialty crop farmers in each farm bill and brought the U.S. Department of Labor to my district to address local farmer’s labor needs. On issue after issue, I’ve never seen the partisan games and failure to compromise that we see today with the failure of House Republicans to pass a bipartisan farm bill.
 
In July, I wrote to House leadership with a group of 63 bipartisan members urging that a five-year farm bill be brought to the floor. I wrote again this month with 60 bipartisan, bicameral members urging Congressional leadership to extend the MILC program at the pre-September rates in order to maintain a valuable safety net for dairy farmers. I have also joined with 62 bipartisan Members in signing a discharge petition to bring the five-year farm bill up for an open debate on the House floor. The House Majority has ignored each bipartisan call for action.
 
The problem couldn’t be more urgent and the solution couldn’t be clearer. As farmers struggle to deal with a disastrous farming season, the last thing they need is more pain because of political games. On behalf of the farmers of Western New York, and farmers across our nation, I urge my Republican colleagues to put responsible governing ahead of partisan games, and pass the bipartisan Senate farm bill. I will keep my phone on, and my car warm, to return here and pass such a bill at any time.
 
Slaughter is the ranking member on the House Committee on Rules.