February 01, 2023

Keeping the ‘farm’ in the farm bill

FORT WAYNE, Ind. — The new House majority will keep the focus on farming in the next farm bill, said Republican Rep. Jim Banks.

Banks and Indiana Farm Bureau President Randy Kron had a conversation about agriculture and politics in a seminar at the Fort Wayne Farm Show.

A day earlier, Banks announced that he is running for the U.S. Senate seat from Indiana being vacated by GOP Sen. Mike Braun.

Banks is the first candidate to formally enter the Senate race since Braun said in December that he would forgo a 2024 reelection bid and run instead for Indiana governor.

Republicans have a very thin, historically small four-seat majority in the House, while Democrats own the Senate and the White House, Banks said.

“That makes it really tricky to get things done that we want to get done to get our country back on track and back on its feet after what we’ve been through the last couple of years,” he said.

“But in the House we do have the majority, we do have the gavels, we can block some of the more radical parts of the left wing’s agenda — and I think of nowhere more important than the farm bill.”

The farm bill must be bipartisan, Banks stressed.

“It can’t be a Green New Deal, radical climate change bill that Democrats want it to be,” he said. “We have to fight back against that and because we have the majority in the House I think we can get that done.”

Kron noted between 75% and 80% of farm bill spending is for nutrition and domestic food assistance programs.

With the current legislation, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, set to expire on Sept. 30, can lawmakers come together in time?

“In the House, with the Republican majority, we are going to do our part to get it done. We are going to do everything that we can to do the heavy lift, pass the farm bill out of the House,” Banks said.

He acknowledged Indiana’s representatives on the congressional agriculture committees, GOP members Braun and Rep. Jim Baird, as well as praised House Ag Chair GT Thompson of Pennsylvania for seeking input from everyone.

Banks encouraged Farm Bureau members to share their feedback and said several farmers had already approached him at the farm show.

“You take the good with the bad and you hope the good far outweighs the bad. The last farm bill, we got it to a place where it had that broad bipartisan support. I think we can get this done this time, too,” he said.

On The Front Lines

Farmers do not get enough credit for the work they do, especially as stewards of the land and their livestock, Kron said.

“They want to take care of it right. They know that if you take care of the land — you want to leave it better than you found it — it will take care of you, too. Sometimes in our nation’s capital we seem to get confused about that,” he said.

“My concern with the farm bill is some of these ‘green initiatives,’ whatever you want to call them, being mandates and not being voluntary. I always think you’re better off using the carrot than the stick.”

Kron said a Farm Bureau task force’s first recommendation for the new farm bill is: “Do No Harm.”

“Let’s not go backwards,” he said. “That all of the sudden if you want to be a part of the farm program to get any supports or any safety net that we’re going to have to jump through three hoops that probably aren’t reasonable.”

Banks said he will battle against the climate agenda of New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other liberals.

“The Democrats are so good at passing a bill and calling it an infrastructure bill and then you start reading the bill and realize it’s not about infrastructure — it’s about radical climate-change Green New Deal policies to take away cars that take gasoline and force us all to drive electric cars instead,” he said.

“The fake infrastructure bill was a Green New Deal bill. We can’t let them do that to the farm bill. I’m not going to let them do that to the farm bill and stuff it with radical environmentalist mandates on all of you that make it harder for you to do what you do. That’s what you sent me to Washington to fight against and that’s what I’m going to do.”

As the cost to farm has skyrocketed, the risk farmers endure is greater than ever, said Kron, who will plant his 40th crop this spring.

“We’re probably 4X, 5X from what input costs were. So, crop insurance is a key, important, critical part moving forward,” he said. “I worry about transferring these farms to the next generation.”

Kron lives in Vanderburgh County and farms in nearby Gibson County in southwest Indiana with his wife, Joyce, and son, Ben, raising white corn, yellow corn and soybeans.

Political Power

The House will pass a lot of bills that will not go anywhere when they get to the Senate, Banks predicted.

“But there are a few key leverage points and Republicans have to use those leverage points with our slim majority as opportunities to get things done — and the farm bill is one of those key leverage points,” Banks said.

“Debt limit, appropriations bills, the defense bill, those are probably, likely the few things that could pass out of the House and the Senate that President Biden will sign,” he said. “We have to use the farm bill as one of those leverage points to do things like invest in rural broadband.”

Banks, who grew up in Columbia City in northeast Indiana, noted his father-in-law and mother-in-law, Phil and Deb Katterhenry, both worked in the main Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance office in Indianapolis.

“So, we consider ourselves to be a Farm Bureau family,” he said.

James Henry

James Henry

Executive Editor