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Smith talks about Farm Bill
March 17, 2012 Jerry Purvis   

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Photo by Jerry Purvis/Gering Citizen
U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith stopped at the Farm And Ranch Museum in Gering Monday to talk about the Farm Bill now before Congress. Smith also hosted listening sessions in McCook and Aurora.

GERING — Adrian Smith, Congressman from Nebraska’s Third Congressional District, is making several stops around the state to hear from the public about the Farm Bill currently being debated before Congress.

The Third District covers most of the geographic area of the state and touches on both west and east borders. “The Third District of Nebraska is very reflective of the diversity of agriculture across America,” Smith said. “We have different irrigation practices in the west and the east. We grow different crops and have different climate and soil conditions. We have to keep those differences in mind whenever we consider legislation.”

Smith said the producers he’s talked with are ready to give up direct payments from the federal government. They also appreciate what crop insurance has achieved.

“There have already been significant cuts to crop insurance and the producers aren’t complaining,” Smith said. “We need to make sure market forces are also in play so it’s not just a check from the government.”

Smith pointed out that producers are always improving their operations, citing they often have record yields during drought years. But one of the problems is government that often stands in the way with overregulation.

One example of overregulation Smith cited was the Environmental Protection Agency, which isn’t under the Department of Agriculture. Still, the agency claims it has authority to regulate farm dust under the Clean Air Act.

Smith said it was never the intention of Congress to give the EPA that kind of authority and he urged lawmakers to revise and clarify the statutes that only hinder farming operations.

One bill Smith is opposing is HR 2942, which calls for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to change the way they manage river waters on the Platte and Missouri. It also calls for lowering reservoir levels.
Smith said mandating a remedy without considering other natural conditions could pose some problems in the future. Instead, wants to allow the Army Corps of Engineers the flexibility to use their professional judgment.

“We’re already starting to see a different practice take shape after last year’s flooding,” Smith said. “I want to avoid adding another layer of regulations on top of other regulations without getting rid of any regulations.”

Smith said the Endangered Species Act is complicating water management in all areas of the country. In 2009, concerns over a threatened species of fish caused the government to turn off irrigation to California’s Central Valley, turning the once fertile area into a dustbowl. Despite numerous petitions to Congress, the spigot remains shut off.

Smith said that although 2012 is an election year, he’s confident the Farm Bill can be passed in this session of Congress. However, he made no estimate as to its cost.

The portion of the Farm Bill that deals with ag production and producers is very small. Seventy-eight percent of the funding goes toward nutrition programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
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