In an October 15 debate between North Dakota Senate candidates Republican Rep. Rick Berg and Democratic challenger Heidi Heitkamp, the failure of the House of Representatives to pass a farm bill was a central issue. Heitkamp called the lack of a new farm bill the “biggest failure of this Congress.”
Though the Senate passed a farm bill with a big bipartisan majority, leadership in the Republican-controlled House did not even vote on one before adjourning in September. At the time, Berg told CNN he was “frustrated with the Republican leadership.” In Tuesday’s debate, Rep. Berg reiterated that point, calling House Republican leadership “a problem”:
We have a stonewall problem. I’ll agree. The House Republican leadership is a problem on the farm bill.
Berg claimed Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) promised to bring the bill to the floor before the end of the year. But during an appearance in Iowa yesterday, Boehner “didn’t respond to questions about federal farm provisions that expired this month.”
Since North Dakota is one of the leading agriculture producers in the nation and ranks in the top ten for a variety of agricultural products, it is no surprise the farm bill was a main focus of discussion. The last farm bill expired on September 30, and though it won’t end federal support for farmers in 2012, farm policies will return to standards from 1949 on January 1, 2013 if no new bill is passed. Large swathes of the Department of Agriculture also face defunding.
House Republicans and Democrats from agriculture-heavy districts came together in a rare moment of bipartisanship in late September, trying to get the bill to the floor in spite of House leadership.