Election year politics has been injected into our nation’s agriculture policy and members of the House of Representatives are to blame. First, Congress failed to pass the Farm Bill because ideological positions were inserted into the historically non-controversial bill. A couple of weeks later, Congress reconsidered and narrowly passed its version riddled with issues. It passed by two votes. Now, they’re packing the conference committee with 47 members. Why? Because it’s an election year and everyone wants to put it in an advertisement. Look no further than Kevin Cramer for an example of this election year bailout.
Political opportunism can’t cover up political records. So, let’s look at the record. One of the first attempts to inject ideological poison pills into our agriculture policy came in 2013 and 2014. It threatened passage of the Farm Bill. Cramer was steadfast behind those efforts and it caught the attention of North Dakota. The Williston Herald told Cramer to start acting like Hoeven and Heitkamp to get something done for farmers. “We feel Cramer needs to take a lesson from Hoeven and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in how to wield influence.” The Grand Forks Herald was more direct when they called Cramer an “ideologue” who “rejects compromises.” Both said during the last Farm Bill debate. Both can be repeated again in 2018.
Cramer is also a member of the Republican Study Committee. In their budget proposal for 2019, the group called for cutting crop insurance responsibility in half, eliminating the renewable fuel standard, and eliminating the sugar program. Either Cramer endorses those ideas, or he failed to convince them these positions are harmful to North Dakota farmers. If he couldn’t be effective then, what makes us think he could be effective on a packed conference committee?
All of this leads up to this moment. A Farm Bill needs to be passed amid an international trade war. Yet the House version followed the same path of 2014. They knowingly put provisions in making it more difficult to pass. Cramer chose not to serve on the Agriculture Committee, but that doesn’t stop him from bragging about the House bill. In his comments about being on the conference committee, The Forum reported Cramer said he was “very involved” in developing the bill. In essence, he is taking responsibility for creating this mess and now he wants recognition for being a part of the clean up.
Speaker Paul Ryan was handing out conference committee appointments like they were candy at an election year parade. 47 members this year compared to 29 members in the 2014 conference committee. It would be more prudent to narrow the appointments to those who are actually effective on agricultural policy. But, it is an election year and that leads to political opportunism.