March 2006
Featured Articles

Congressman says compromise is key to 2007 Farm Bill

 
  Former Congressman Charlie Stenholm was the guest speaker at AFC’s Annual Meeting in Auburn.
by Fran Sharp

As legislators begin looking for a 2007 Farm Bill, former Congress-man Charlie Stenholm is looking over their shoulder.

Speaking at AFC’s Annual Meeting in Auburn, the 26-year veteran of Congress, now a member of Olsson, Frank and Weeda, P.C. in Washington, told members he is not sure there will even be a 2007 Farm Bill.

He added the U.S. agricultural industry faces significant challenges from legislators at home who would cut deeply into farm program budgets, and from international trade competitors who would undermine the very farm programs that have helped keep producers alive for decades.

The last U.S. Farm Bill came through a bipartisan effort that focused on compromise and bridge-building, he said, adding that kind of consensus no longer exists in the U.S. Congress. "I see the worst political environment in Congress I’ve seen over the past 26-plus years. There is no bridge-building across the aisle. There seems to be no trust in D.C. today."

Harsh words, yes, but Stenholm said his beliefs are backed by the fact that only 20 members of the House and Senate know anything at all about agriculture and how in the world can that benefit farmers and the production of food in this country.

Lobbying alone will not solve the problem, he said. Agriculture is not a major political block, he said. There are 285 million people, less than 2 million farmers, but that does not mean no one will listen. "We have to work harder to be heard and we have to learn to compromise. Growers must continue to support their own associations through various check-off programs. "If we are not willing to help ourselves, it will be hard to convince Congress to provide assistance.

"Some of those compromises might be supporting President Bush’s guest worker program and the realization that we can’t gather up the illegal immigrants and truck them back to Mexico. Besides that, it’s not just Mexico anymore."

Stenholm supports a national identity card and says that immigration is going to be a huge issue for our country.

      
To Contact your Congressman
about the 2007 Farm Bill, write or call:
 
Senate –
Jeff Sessions
495 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-4124

Richard Shelby
110 Hart Senate
Office Building
Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-5744

House of Representatives –
District 1 – Jo Bonner
315 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-4931

District 2 – Terry Evertt
2312 Rayburn Building
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-2901

District 3
– Mike Rogers
514 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-3261

District 4 – Robert Aderholt
1433 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-4876

District 5 – Bud Cramer
2368 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-4801

District 6 – Spencer Bachus
442 Cannon Building
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-4921

District 7
– Artur Davis
208 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-2665
 
Stenholm said those involved in drafting ideas for a 2007 Farm Bill could use all the help our citizens can offer.

Getting government out of agriculture is impractical, he said. "If our government is not willing to stand shoulder to shoulder with our producers, we will lose industry to those governments who will do just that to protect their interests."

"You can help by participating politically in the Farm Bill discussion," he said. "Send your congressman your ideas and think outside the box. This is too important to stand by and wait to see what happens.”

Fran Sharp is a freelance writer from Alabaster.