By DAVID A. WILSON
Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler, Harrisonville, stopped by California Tuesday, Aug. 13, to present a legislative update on agriculture issues to about 40 people at a Farmer's Roundtable Lunch held at the Vocational Agriculture Building at California High School. The Moniteau County Farm Bureau provided the lunch.
Hartzler, who grew up on a farm in Archie, said this was her first District 4 Farm Tour.
She said though most are only on two committees, she requested a third since it was so important to people in her district. As a result, Hartzler sits on the House Armed Services Committee, the House Agriculture Committee and the House Committee on the Budget.
"It is important to have a strong agriculture policy in government," she said. "The reason we have the cheapest, safest, most reliable food supply is government policy."
She said that too many people don't really understand the role of agriculture in meeting the needs of the people.
Only 20 percent of the Farm Bill, as it has existed, deals with agriculture production, crop insurance and so on. Hartzler explained that 80 percent of the funds go to nutrition and food stamps, school lunches and other expenditures with little to do with farming and agriculture.
An attempt was made to pass a farm bill with a lot of major reforms, but it failed.
"With $32 billion a day borrowed, farmers understand that we have to do more with less," Hartzler said.
The agriculture related part of the bill does away with many programs and consolidates others. Programs kept include crop insurance, target price options and revenue loss programs. "Purely a safety net, not for anyone to get rich," she said.
The proposals would save $20 billion a year.
On the nutrition side, Hartzler said a proposed bill would have saved $20 billion a year by getting rid of fraud waste and abuse. In addition to proposing to stop the policy of giving bonuses to states for getting the paperwork in on time, the proposed legislation would stop some of the USDA programs such as advertising the U.S. food stamp program in places such as Mexico and stopping categorical eligibility which makes food stamp eligibility automatic for those eligible for some other programs.
She said the agriculture production part passed, but the nutrition and food stamps part was defeated.
"Some didn't like the work requirement for food stamps," she said.
Hartzler explained that the work requirement was only for those able-bodied non-working recipients with no dependents. It was only a few years ago that food stamps eligibility was for three months with a work requirement.
"I don't know what the bill looks like after the conference," she said.
Other farm related legislative work involves attempting to stop a Department of Labor rule to keep young people from working on a farm, the EPA attempt to regulate "farm dust."
In answer to questions about getting the budget under control, Hartzler gave facts and figures, then said, "To get the debt down, we will have to reform public assistance programs. Eventually all of the programs will be bankrupt - Social Security, 20 years and Medicare Part A, 10 years.
"We could cut 100 percent of all discretionary spending, which includes defense, leaving the public assistance programs and interest (payments on the debt) and it will still not give us a balanced budget."
She briefly addressed immigration issues including: the problems for those who have received high tech degrees in the United States and want to stay here, but can't because of the visa requirements; the need for temporary farm workers for such things as berry picking; and the fact that there are many stretches of the U.S. border which people can walk across since there is not even a fence.
The Congresswoman thanked everyone for attending, and those who prepared the food. She than introduced her staff members present: Washington staffers Eric Bohl and Joe Tvrdy and field representatives Zack Brown and Chris Janssen. Her press secretary is Steve Walsh.