By Erik Wasson - 10/09/12 06:39 PM EDT
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Tuesday sought to blame President Obama for Congress’s failure to pass a farm bill this year.
“People have been waiting a long time for a farm bill. The president has to show the leadership to get the House and Senate together,” he said at an event in Iowa.
The Democratic Senate in June passed a five-year farm bill, as did the House Agriculture Committee, but House GOP leaders refused to hold a vote on the measure.
Democrats have been using the farm bill to hit Republican congressional candidates, especially in Iowa, which could move into Romney’s column after Obama’s lackluster debate performance last week. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) is running in a tight race against Christie Vilsack, the wife of Obama’s Agriculture secretary.
Romney released an agricultural policy paper on Tuesday that similarly lays blame at Obama's feet for inaction on the farm bill.
“This legislation provides important peace of mind for farmers and ranchers through programs that help manage market volatility and respond to natural disasters. Unfortunately, that peace of mind has been wiped away by a Congress stuck in gridlock and a President unwilling to show leadership on the issue,” the paper states.
“Mitt Romney understands that leadership is not an option for a president; the job demands it, and the American people deserve it,” it adds.
It goes on to say Romney will see to it a “strong farm bill is passed in a timely manner to give farmers and ranchers the certainty they need for their operations and their livelihoods.”
The paper does not define what a “strong” farm bill looks like, however, or say what Romney believes is an appropriate level of government support for farmers.
Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, pushed back on Romney's attack and said House Republican leaders are the ones standing in the way of a farm bill.
"I think it's unfair and it shows a complete lack of understanding of what's going on," Peterson said. "The problem is not between the House and the Senate, the problem is Majority Leader Cantor won't put the farm bill on the floor."
Peterson said Romney's new policy paper makes him "nervous" that Romney is not really with farmers on maintaining a safety net.
"What he says in there is just what is safe to say in front of the Club for Growth," he said. "There is trade and regulations but that's not really the farm bill."
Peterson said that Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), has been the "No. 1" opponent of a strong farm safety net and called for deeper cuts to agriculture in his budget proposals.
Republicans are divided on farm subsidies contained in the five-year farm bill, a major reason the House has not voted on it.
The House Agriculture bill cuts overall funding by $35 billion over 10 years, but conservatives want more. The president also called for more cuts to commodity subsidies in his budget than those either in the House Agriculture or Senate-passed bills, which use some savings to create new crop insurance protections.
Many House Democrats are opposed to the food stamp cuts in the House bill, but Peterson said last month his informal whip count indicates the farm bill could pass.
Romney’s agriculture plan focuses on tax reductions such as for the estate tax, expanding trade, cutting environmental regulations and cutting the cost of energy.
He pledges to create a create a Reagan Economic Zone given the stalled World Trade Organization Doha round of trade liberalization, to put a cost limit on all federal regulations and to achieve energy independence by 2020.
—Justin Sink contributed.
This story was updated at 3:31 p.m.