Skelton says looking out for farmers must remain a key priority for Congress
By: U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton
Congressman Ike Skelton
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Oct. 11, 2009) — As your Fourth District Congressman, agricultural issues are a top priority for me. That is why I have worked through the years to stay close to the farmers I represent by meeting with them in Missouri and in Washington, D.C.
In recent weeks, I have spent a great deal of time with Show-Me State producers. During the August district work period, I met with producers at the Missouri State Fair and enjoyed a dinner with Missouri Farm Bureau members. I was pleased to host the Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Congressman Collin Peterson, who attended both of those events with me. I also hosted U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who joined me for a round table discussion with farmers in Pleasant Hill, a tour and briefing at Show Me Energy Cooperative in Centerview, and a rural community forum at State Fair Community College in Sedalia. It was a pleasure hosting two of America’s top agricultural leaders in rural Missouri.
When I returned to Washington after Labor Day, I met with members of various Show-Me State agricultural groups who were visiting Washington to express their points of view on various federal issues. I met with representatives from the Missouri Corn Growers Association, the Missouri Pork Association, the Missouri Dairy Association, Dairy Farmers of America, the Missouri Farmers Union, and the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association. As a result of these meetings, I have taken action on a few matters important to rural America.
On Oct. 7, I voted for the Fiscal Year 2010 Agriculture Department Appropriations Conference Report, which included two important provisions I supported. This spending bill would appropriate $350 million in assistance to dairy farmers — $290 million in direct payments and $60 million to purchase cheese and other dairy products. I worked to secure these emergency funds in the House of Representatives, and am grateful they were included in the conference report. The legislation would also fix an international trade dispute that had been problematic in America’s agricultural trade policies with China. I am hopeful that the remedy to the trade dispute will open the door for China to buy more American pork and beef products.
My belief that free trade helps Missouri producers led me to write a letter to the new U.S. Trade Representative, Ron Kirk, asking for a status report on pending trade agreements between the United States and Panama, Colombia, and South Korea. I received a response from the Trade Representative that indicates that the Administration is working to perfect these agreements so they can be presented to Congress. I am hopeful that we can move forward with these free trade efforts soon.
With respect to the pork industry, I signed a letter with a bipartisan group of members from the House of Representatives urging the Administration to provide emergency support to the U.S. pork industry. I also recently notified the national news outlets that they should be more responsible when referencing H1N1 human influenza. Repeated references on broadcast news and newspapers to this virus as “swine flu” have unnecessarily harmed pork producers who are already experiencing a tough economic climate.
In the days ahead, I will continue working on behalf of rural America. I will closely monitor these matters, and I am committed to ensuring that my colleagues devote time, energy, attention, and resources to issues affecting America’s producers.
Congressman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) serves as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Congressman Skelton’s website is at www.house.gov/skelton.