Idaho's $2 billion dairy industry is praising 2nd District GOP Rep. Mike Simpson for pressing to get a new Farm Bill passed, but 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador is taking a pass.
Simpson twice called on House GOP leadership to bring to the floor H.R. 6083, the Federal Agricultural Reform and Risk Management Act, which passed the House Agriculture Committee 35-11 in July, with strong bipartisan support. Leadership stalled, so Simpson joined a second letter last month with a bipartisan group of colleagues, urging action before the 2008 farm bill expired on Sunday.
"Farmers and ranchers in Idaho and across the country need some certainty," Simpson said last month, noting that agriculture supports 16 million jobs. "We are running out of time, and Congress should be allowed to vote on a new five-year Farm Bill."
Labrador declined to sign the letter, despite urging from Idaho's dairy industry, the third-largest in the U.S. Leadership put off action until after the Nov. 6 election.
I asked for time to speak with Labrador about the subject this week, but his office said he didn't want to talk about it. When I saw Labrador at Tuesday's City Club forum on Props 1, 2 and 3, I was able to get a moment with him to ask why he wouldn't explain his silence to voters before the election, where he faces Democrat Jimmy Farris.
"It's a bill that hasn't come to a vote," Labrador said, adding, "I just don't make it a practice" to comment on bills before they reach the full House.
"It needs to go through amendments, it needs to go through a lot of different things," he continued. "Every bill has 100s of amendments."
That posture allows Labrador to avoid the topic until after the election, though he says that the bill's apportioning $80 billion to food stamps is excessive and needs to be trimmed.
I find it strange that Labrador won't simply say he favors ending farm subsidies? That would be consistent with his promise to cut government and practice his signature anti-establishment candor that marked his upsets wins in the 2010 primary and general elections.
I suggested to Labrador that he's ducking the issue to avoid angering a key interest group before the Nov. 6 election.
"No," he replied. "I have said publicly many things that tick off a lot of people."
What about his promise to radically reform government and the way things are done in Washington? "You can always make assumptions about me keeping my word and my promises," he replied, with a Cheshire cat grin.
Farris has blasted Labrador for his indifference. "This is another case of Congressman Labrador voting against jobs," said Farris.
"This bill would provide vital assistance to one of Idaho's most important industries," he said last week. "It would protect jobs and help keep revenue coming into the state."
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