Farm Bill Deal Helps Family Farmers Without Gutting Food Programs

We’re working our way through the 800-page Farm Bill compromise bill. The legislation will cost $867 billion over 10 years. We expect to see it pass as early as this week and no later than next week. Then it’s on to Trump’s desk for signature into law.
Of course, Trump could veto the measure, but that means the Democratically controlled House Agriculture Committee would get a chance to rewrite the whole thing next year. That’s the last thing the Republicans want.
It’s a dense read, but here are some early highlights:
  • ‎It allows for crop insurance and federal subsidies overall to increase moving forward, in part because of catastrophic weather patterns that destroy agriculture,  and the devastating effect the Trump Trade War has had on Family Farmers.
  • It includes subsidies capped at $125,000 per person annually for farmers and family members‎ , adding a controversial provision that includes cousins, nieces and nephews. This is a boondoggle, but it was trade off.
  • It doesn’t include language that would have taken away food and nutrition programs for more than 1.5 million children, seniors, veterans, single mothers, and active duty families. The Trump administration will now try to do an end around with a directive or executive order, but expect a court challenge to that move.
  • It allows Family Farmers to cultivate, process and sell hemp, but it falls short on criminal justice reforms for Americans convicted of past hemp-related felonies. The bill requires those individuals to wait 10 years before they can work in the legalized hemp industry. Expect to see a lively fight against that provision in future criminal justice reform legislation debates.
  • There are a cross-section of provisions, from farm subsidies to food and nutrition ‎programs to hemp legalization that would benefit the Native American tribes and nations.
  • There are some provisions for thinning forests under the guise of wildfire controls, but the bill does not go as far as House Republicans or Trump administration sought.
  • There is grant  funding ‎for urban farming programs that have become popular with everyone from soccer moms to immigrant communities.
  • There is funding for indoor farming programs that may become a crucial part of how Americans grow food, given the catastrophic weather patterns that threaten crops.
Plenty to digest there, and we urge urge you to read the bill. Most lawmakers won’t, so somebody should. It’s not perfect ‎legislation, but it is a victory over the social clear cutters, especially Paul Ryan and Trump, who sought to use the Farm Bill to rip a hole in the American Safety Net. It appears they failed.

Rural Economy Nightmare: Trump’s Move Toward Saudi Oil Dependence is a Direct Threat to US Conventional Oil, Shale Oil, and Coal Industries

The Trump administration’s decision to cozy up with Saudi Arabia is putting American jobs and revenue from the fossil fuels industry at risk, already coming close to forcing oil rigs to go offline and requiring companies to lay off workers.

From the conventional oil operations that states like Mississippi totally depend on to the hydraulic fracturing rigs that created a boom in states like North Dakota, the Trump-Saudi alliance is poised to crush the Rural Economy. Officials in Mississippi have been afraid of this scenario for years.

“State and local governments collect roughly 10 percent of oil and gas revenue on average, ranging from a low of roughly 1 percent to a high of nearly 40 percent,” according to a report by the industry group Resources for the Future.

Add in Trump’s unseemly love affair with mega-oil-producing Russia and that’s quite the group hug with countries competing with the U.S. and for jobs and revenue. You would have to be living under a rock to not see that forming an “axis of energy” with Russia and Saudi Arabia would deeply wound the U.S. oil and gas industries.

Simply put, the Trump energy policy favors Putin and the Saudi crown prince, but will keep America from the promise of energy independence for the U.S. It’s just one more broken promise that is equaled only to the outright lie Trump told the coal industry and its former workers and families about bringing the boom days back to life. Ignoring our warnings, Trump never could admit the war on coal always was going to be won by oil and gas — we just didn’t think it would Saudi and Russian oil and gas that would kill coal!

Trump’s embrace of Saudi oil is going to make it nearly impossible any time soon to get back to most recent peak revenue seen in 2014 for the oil industry. Unfortunately, we can’t count on the Trump allies in Congress that allow him to run amok and make deals that will turn out to not make America First, while most likely making him rich.

Rural Americans Aren’t Fools; We See the Pattern of Deception

They must think we’re fools.

The Republicans are embracing a pattern of deception that is making their followers among us in Rural America look like idiots. It’s not a new fraud, either. This scam has been going on for at least two years.

The sham started with promises of policies that could have been a big boost to Rural Americans, like reducing the federal deficit and providing the middle class with meaningful tax cuts. Instead, Trump and the Republicans gave their fat cat billionaire buddies and corporations a $1.5 trillion tax cut that added nearly $1 trillion to the deficit virtually overnight. As for the promised middle class tax cuts? Well, they never happened. The GOP lit one match and burned Rural Americans twice.

Then there was the Trump pledge to lower the costs of prescription drugs and a boast that a trade war with China would be easy to win. Now that the election is over at least one drug company is planning to raise the cost of dozens of prescription drugs. Trump either knew those prices would climb, or else he got played like a sucker. As for his trade war, our 401(k)s and IRAs are taking a hit because Wall Street is nervous, while Family Farmers and commercial fishermen have discovered they’ve lost access to the lucrative Chinese market.

Do we even have to bring up “The Wall” that Mexico was never going to pay for?

Now we find the deception has moved to voter suppression and recounts. Every time they close voting places or impose voter ID laws it makes it harder for all Rural Voters to cast a ballot, not just the minorities they are hoping to keep from the polls. Georgia, North Dakota and Mississippi are just the latest examples of Rural States where GOP-led voter suppression efforts were exposed.

Everyone wants clean and fair elections, or at least they should. Yet when Russia intervenes in an election, the Republicans look the other way. The slogan “America First” seems to take a back seat to Russia First when it comes to Trump and his minions in Congress.

They must think we’re fools.

Even A Top Senate Republican Blames House GOP for Farm Bill Gridlock

The election has come and gone, but nothing has changed for America’s Family Farmers who are hurting because of low crop prices coupled with retaliatory tariffs abroad as a result of Trump’s trade war. It is time for the House Republicans to end their obstructionist holdout and pass a Farm Bill that will help keep the people who grow our food in business and get them through the cold winter months.

The House Republicans are blocking passage of a Farm Bill because of their demands that they be allowed to cut and restrict food and nutrition programs that the most vulnerable Americans depend on, including children, seniors, veterans, active duty military families, and physically and mentally challenged Americans.

Even Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) blames House Republicans for the holdup, saying House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) is standing in the way of passing a Farm Bill.

“I enjoy working with him, he’s a good man; but we can’t do this with saying, ‘OK, we’ve got everything tied down’ only to find out that we have counter-proposals four or five days later. We just have to come to a conclusion,” Roberts said, according to Politico.

Conaway is really just carrying the water for lame duck House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Trump, who had hoped they could exploit the Farm Bill to pursue their agenda of cutting a gaping hole in the American Safety Net. Fortunately, a powerful bipartisan coalition in the Senate led by Roberts and ranking Agriculture Committee member Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) said no way to the House bill.

Clearly the burden on Family Farmers can be lifted if the House Republican leadership would end the gridlock and support the bipartisan Senate Farm Bill, which does not include the devastating cuts in the House version. It is widely known that if the House Republicans would allow a vote on the Senate version of the Farm Bill it would pass immediately.

We would prefer the lame duck Congress pass the Senate version of the Farm Bill and be done with it for the sake of Family Farmers. The next best alternative is for the lame duck Congress to pass an extension and let the next Congress pass the long-term Farm Bill – a scenario that bodes well for Family Farmers because the GOP saboteurs would no longer have control of the House. We expect the House would craft and approve a much stronger Farm Bill with the Democrats in charge.

It is increasingly looking like the lame duck Congress will go the route of a Farm Bill extension by Christmas.  Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) predicted it would likely be a one-year extension of the Farm Bill passed in 2014, but our sources on Capitol Hill tell us it could be a shorter bridge given the favorable makeup of the next Congress.

Anyway you slice the pie, it is time to stop using Family Farmers and food and nutrition programs as pawns. The stalling is an ongoing threat to the Rural Economy. Just get a good and fair Farm Bill done one way the other and stop the political hogwash now that the elections are over.

United States of America Can Reject Trump’s Divided States of America

No country’s name says more about itself than ours, the United States of America. It tells our story. We are many people united under one flag, raised to believe all people are created equal and entitled to a safe and prosperous quality of life.

For the majority of us, we believe we are all in this together. We are taught to reject forces of darkness that seek to divide us for the gain of relative few. Most of us are inspired by a tradition of seeking a future that will be kind to the next generation of Americans.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s immortal words are as true today as they were when he spoke them in his First Inaugural Address: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

For the current White House occupant, the message is quite the opposite. Trump wants us to be very afraid, as if he expects Americans to run for the hills. What is he thinking? Americans don’t run, and the scare tactics won’t fool us.

Among Trump’s arsenal of fear-mongering attack points are a fake invasion from unarmed refugees who Trump suggests can throw a rock like a Major League Baseball pitcher; his coded but poorly hidden hate speech some people blame for contributing to recent acts of domestic terrorism; and a racist video ad even a handful of Republicans have rejected as over the top.

House and Senate Republicans have overwhelmingly embraced Trump’s ugly campaign rhetoric and style. Moreover, the two Republican leaders who long ago could have taken steps to contain Trump’s divisive demagoguery and lies have just stood by and let it build to this boiling point. House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin is doing the smart thing and quitting Congress before he has to take the heat for how all this plays out. Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, however, plans to stick around and continue to carry Trump’s water around Washington.

What appears to be emerging in America is a different story, however. Some mainstream Republicans and independents are moving away from Trump as a result of his dark message aimed at energizing the extreme elements of the GOP base voters. Increasingly, many Rural Americans find his words do not reflect the values of our communities.

“What we’ve seen with moderate Republicans and independents is an increasing frustration with the president of the United States, pitting Americans against Americans — trying to divide us instead of uniting us,’’ House candidate Harley Rouda told Politico.

Hate and fear? Is that really all then best they have to go with as their final pitch to keep themselves swimming in the shallow end of the Washington swamp? Strong family-, community- and faith-oriented Rural Americans have a choice to make on Election Day. Lets not get fooled again. Choose wisely.

New Leadership in Congress Will Revive Jobs-Creating Plan for Rebuilding America’s Rural Roads, Bridges, Highways and Broadband

A new balance of power in Washington will be the best chance to resuscitate the government’s agenda for rebuilding and repairing aging, obsolete and in some cases dangerous Rural Roads, Highways and Waterways.

A Democratic majority in at least one chamber of Congress will also try to rescue the struggling strategy for bringing high speed broadband to Rural America.

Republicans failed to keep their promise of passing an infrastructure plan early in Trump’s first term after instead opting to give billionaires and corporations a $1.5 trillion tax boondoggle. The GOP scheme would have forced communities and states to raise local taxes to pay for the majority of an infrastructure program died a quick death after it became clear the Republicans were favoring wealthy communities over Rural Areas.

But just days before we go to the polls, Democrats divulged they are moving on plans for a safe, efficient and practical infrastructure plan that would provide good jobs at real wages and create incentives for luring manufacturing and tech jobs to Rural and Small Town America.

It’s welcome news since the tax breaks and Trump Trade War haven’t delivered on all those new factory openings that were promised to Rural and Small Town America. Nor have the Republicans kept a promise to wire up most of Rural America with the fiber optics and erect transmission towers necessary to level the playing field for Rural America, and accommodate tech companies and communications-heavy businesses.

Democrats are likely to lean heavily on a revenue-neutral strategy that won’t force states and local communities to raise taxes for America. Because of failure of congress to act, the U.S. will need to address $4.6 trillion in infrastructure needs in the next 10 years, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Not all politicians are spewing fear and hate in the closing days of the midterm election. At least one party is running on an agenda of progress.

Lawmakers Threaten to Take Away Middle Class Health Care Insurance, Putting Coverage for Pre-Existing Conditions and Rural Hospitals at Risk

Not satisfied with imposing policies that raised the cost of health care for the middle class during the past two years, Republicans are now bent on taking insurance away from Americans with pre-existing health conditions, including children, seniors and veterans.

The Trump administration this month implemented rules that give insurance companies a wide berth to refuse to provide coverage for sick Americans, allowing them to discriminate against our families, friends and neighbors. That move by Trump comes after Republican House members and senators voted dozens of times since 2011 for legislation that would end coverage for pre-existing conditions.

Now we find that Republicans are so scared of their record of trying to take health care away from Middle Class Americans that about three dozen GOP lawmakers were caught lying about their votes that would have eliminated coverage for pre-existing conditions.

The Trump-McConnell-Ryan Troika have intentionally imposed policies successfully aimed at raising the cost of health insurance to try to flame opposition to the Affordable Care Act.

At least 4 million Americans have lost health care coverage since Trump and the Republicans gained control of the White House and Congress, according to one estimate. That trend emerged under Trump after about 20 million Americans were able during the previous administration to get health care coverage for the first time. That’s a stark difference.

It’s particularly distressing news for Rural Americans, who already have a hard enough time trying to find places to go to get treated. Dozens of rural hospitals have closed in recent years, with hundreds more at risk of shuttering their doors. Our families, friends and neighbors shouldn’t have to drive dozens of miles to get to an emergency room, or to visit hospitalized loved ones. It’s become a Rural Health hazard.

The only way for middle class Americans to protect their health care is to vote to ensure our farmers, families, friends, and neighbors have the quality of life they deserve. The Rural Economy depends on Americans to choose wisely.

GOP Leaders: We Gave Richest Americans and Corporations Big Tax Cut; Now We Want to Rip the American Safety Net Off the Middle Class Backs

Republicans have been boasting how they plan to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for the majority of Americans if they are able to hold onto control of both chambers of Congress next week.

It’s incredible how out of touch the GOP leadership is with the American people.

Polls have long shown that voters don’t want the American Safety Net gutted, but a new survey shows that most Americans would rather see revenue raised to deal with the deficit rather than make cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. That same poll further demonstrates that even most Republicans oppose slashing the American Safety Net to make up for the deficit triggered by the Republican’s $1.5 trillion tax giveaway to corporations and the wealthiest Americans.

One would think that after handing Wall Street and the richest Americans more than a trillion dollars the Republicans would want to take care of the middle class by expanding programs like Medicaid to protect vulnerable seniors, veterans and active duty families, and providing Medicare benefits for more American workers and their families, too.

No chance.

Leading the cowardly plan to tear the American Safety Net off the backs of Americans from every part of the country are House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Their puppet master Trump says he doesn’t want to mess with the American Safety Net programs we depend on, but what is his word worth? He lies so often that he doesn’t even know when he’s telling the truth anymore.

The best example of a Republican-spun whopper had to be McConnell, Ryan and Trump claiming their tax cuts for billionaires and corporations would stimulate growth and pay for itself. Instead, the tax cuts are responsible for a shortfall in revenue and have exploded the federal budget deficit by almost $1 trillion in a single year.

“I not only don’t think it will increase the deficit, I think it will be beyond revenue-neutral,” McConnell boasted. “In other words, I think it will produce more than enough to fill that gap.”

What a bunch of cow puck that promise of revenue growth turned out to be.

The only way for Americans to protect the federal benefits they have worked for and paid into is to vote Tuesday for a better deal. The Rural Economy depends on the American Safety Net to ensure our farmers, families, friends and neighbors have the quality of life they deserve. The Rural Economy depends on Americans to choose wisely.

Fate of Industrial Hemp Measure is Up in the Air Without a Farm Bill

There are so many reasons why the House Republicans need to end their obstructionism and pass the Senate Farm Bill, but here’s one that should inspire them to do their jobs: by 2022 the industrial hemp industry should be worth about $3 billion a year, and that means a new revenue stream for Washington.

Held hostage by House GOP lawmakers, the Senate Farm Bill would legalize industrial hemp used to produce food, clothing, building materials, health and beauty products, dietary supplements, and in what could become the biggest growth area, medicine.

The key ingredient in hemp is cannabidiol, or CBD, which is legal in more than half the states but is illegal under federal law as a Schedule I drug. It’s been illegal for nearly 50 years because of some very ignorant federal lawmakers who refused to do their homework.

Just to be clear, hemp isn’t pot, and it doesn’t get you high. It’s a plant that can create a lot of jobs and give Family Farmers an alternative cash crop at a time when they are being left behind by the Trump Trade War and historically low commodities prices.

Admittedly, a lot of cannabis industry business owners and investment advisors have been celebrating a bit prematurely. One West Coast hemp CBD distributor we spoke to bragged of deep ties to pro-hemp Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and was almost arrogant in his confidence that industrial hemp legalization was a slam-dunk. We politely suggested he not pop the cork on the champagne until there is actually something to celebrate.

Seasoned and thoughtful businesses, however, like Dr. Bronner’s have been cautiously optimistic that it can at least see light at the end of the tunnel on hemp legalization, but it has smartly not reduced its steady lobbying and educational campaign. It’s kept the pressure on to win final passage. That’s the difference between a longstanding established and experienced company like Dr. Bronner’s and the cannabis startups ignorant to the reality of how hard it is to navigate Washington in order to take a commodity like industrial hemp from the black market to the open market.

The cannabis trade press also has been overly giddy about the McConnell industrial hemp measure, but in many ways that’s another dose of the irrational exuberance that permeates the marijuana media (which for more than two years has wrongly predicted everything from Congress allowing banks to accept industry money without fear of federal reprisal, to lawmakers outright legalizing the plant. Those things will happen, but not on the guesswork timetables that have come and gone).

Most of the reporting on the industrial hemp measure has been shallow and reliant on the word of a fledgling and mostly ineffective cannabis lobby in Washington. One example is the scant reporting on how McConnell really needed to attach the hemp measure to another piece of legislation (like its present home in the Farm Bill) because he doesn’t have enough Republican votes necessary to pass the measure as a stand-alone bill.

Another story line missed (or ignored) by the industry press is whether the House would even agree to the Senate hemp measure in a still-to-be-written final version of the Farm Bill. The trade press ignores that House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) could even kill the McConnell hemp measure in the House in the dark of night. No lawmaker in America has done more to block any kind of cannabis legislation than Sessions, a prohibitionist whose wit doesn’t measure up to his powerful job of deciding what makes it to the House floor for a vote, and what doesn’t.

We don’t mean to pick on the cannabis media. It provides an important window into a legalization movement almost wholly ignored by the mainstream media. It’s just that willing legislation to pass by simply saying it will is not the same thing as confirming legislation will pass with authoritative sourcing. It’s Ouija board journalism.

We’re confident that Family Farmers will eventually get a chance to plant and harvest the cash crop, but then they face two more hurdles they will face forever: surviving a new federal regulatory system that will make a lot of lawyers rich in order to abide by the rules; and factory farms owned by Big Ag that put profits over Family Farmers. When the time comes, we’ll fight those fights for Family Farmers.

Congress Will Let Farm Bill Expire Without a Replacement

Barring a miracle, the Republican-led Congress will do the unthinkable, leaving farmers hanging and exposed to economic hardship when the Farm Bill expires at the end of the federal fiscal year (Sunday, Sept. 30).

The House Republican leadership is holding farmers hostage by refusing to budge over their demands that the Farm Bill include draconian measures for nutrition programs important to children, seniors, veterans and the disabled. The House passed its Machiavellian Farm Bill by two votes on a party line vote. The Senate passed a more compassionate version of the Farm Bill with an overwhelming bipartisan majority.

“If we brought the Senate version to the House floor today, it would pass,” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) told the Greenfield (Ma.) Recorder. “But (House) Speaker (Paul) Ryan won’t allow it. This is red meat for some Republicans, a chance to beat up on poor people.”

The first casualty actually won’t be the poor, but rather it will be the Rural Economy in the heart of Trump Country. Programs like the Foreign Market Development initiative, which seeks out overseas buyers for American agriculture, products and services will be left without a budget, according to Politico’s Morning Agriculture report.

Amid Trump’s trade war that is crippling Rural America, commodity prices could go down, and price supports and consumer prices could rise in one of the greediest and inexplicable scenarios in the U.S. economy.

“Farmers are in limbo—not knowing if the risk management programs they need to qualify for operating loans will be there,” stated American Farm Bureau Federation President Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia.

If the Farm Bill is not passed after a few days or weeks at the most, or the current Farm Bill of 2014 is not is not extended by Congress in the interim, then the mother of all farming and budgetary nightmares occurs when the ag budget reverts to a 1949 law. Successful Farming magazine describes that regression as “the bogeyman of Farm Bills” because it “would boost farm subsidy rates to unaffordable rates, reintroduce planting controls for some crops, and eliminate support for soybeans.”

“The sky won’t fall right away. The residual effects of programs that have been in place until now will keep working for a little while” the AFBF’s Duvall said. “But time will run out. And the longer it takes to get the new farm bill passed, the greater the harm to confidence in our farm economy. The proverbial runway is short—weeks at best.”

Keep in mind the lame duck Speaker Ryan and his right wing cabal blew up the deficit with their $1.5 trillion billionaire and corporate tax cut giveway, but now they want to create undue risks with the livelihood of Family Farmers and take food out of the mouths of children, seniors, veterans and physically and mentally challenged Americans.

The expiration of the Farm Bill without at least a temporary extension is an unnecessary betrayal to Family Farmers. For months, three of the so-called big four negotiators — Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS), Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Rep. Collin Peterson (D-ND) — have said they would pass a new Farm Bill by the deadline. The fourth negotiator, House Agriculture Chairman Michael Conaway (R-TX) has had little to say worth listening to, defining his role early on as that of Ryan’s water boy, (or should we say milk maid) in the legislative process.

“Now the question is whether Congress will finish the bill before the election or during a lame-duck session, or if it will have to start over next year, when Democrats appear likely to be in charge of the House and maybe the Senate,” wrote agriculture policy expert Jerry Hagstrom in National Journal.