Ag News -
State Ag News
Wednesday, 05 December 2012 09:21
By Amy Bickel
The Hutchinson News
It might not be surprising that a state with deep roots in agriculture has had a member on the House Agriculture Committee continuously for nearly 100 years.
But Republican Congressional leaders Monday ousted Republican Tim Huelskamp from the long-standing Kansas-held committee seat - a committee that has had representation by the Big First District for nearly 50 years, as well.
House Speaker John Boehner also booted Huelskamp, along with Michigan's Justin Amash, off the House Budget committee, reportedly because of an "obstinate" voting pattern, including votes against former vice presidential candidate and budget committee chairman Paul Ryan's budget plan.
Additionally, Rep. David Schweiker of Arizona and Walter Jones of North Carolina were removed from the financial services committee.
"It is little wonder why Congress has a 16 percent approval rating: Americans send principled representatives to change Washington and get punished in return," Huelskamp stated on his website. "The GOP leadership might think they have silenced conservatives, but removing me and others from key committees only confirms our conservative convictions. This is clearly a vindictive move, and a sure sign that the GOP Establishment cannot handle disagreement."
Huelskamp added that he was not ashamed of his conservative stances, which included issuing a public challenge to all 238 GOP colleagues to reaffirm their pledges to oppose tax increases, as well as opposing and publicly criticizing the 2011 debt limit increase and lack of limits on Washington's spending.
"Kansans who sent me to Washington did so to change the way things are done - not to provide cover for Establishment Republicans who only give lip service to conservative principles," Huelskamp said. "If the rest of America is anything like the 700,000 Kansans I represent, then they know that the fiscal and cultural crises facing our nation require drastic changes to the way things are done in Washington - not just symbolic gestures or more of the same."
Huelskamp Spokeswoman Karen Steward did not return phone calls or emails by press time Tuesday night. Republican Sen. Jerry Moran's press secretary also did not return a phone call or email Tuesday.
Sen. Pat Roberts' spokeswoman, Sarah Little, said that Roberts spoke to Huelskamp but the conversations are personal and private.
"He believes Tim is working for the best interests of the people of the Big First District," Little said. "Regardless of committee assignments, that will never change."
Huelskamp, a fifth-generation farmer from Fowler who now has a home in Hutchinson, also voted against the House Ag Committee's farm bill proposal, saying it spends too much on food stamps and offers little regulatory relief for farmers.
"Just a decade ago, 'Farm Bill' spending was split evenly between food stamp/SNAP spending and farm spending," Huelskamp said in July. "Now, about 80 cents out of every dollar will go to SNAP welfare spending."
When the House recessed in September without passing a farm bill, Huelskamp said he supported a one-year extension. Any action, however, has yet to happen on the bill that would move farm programs back to parity prices Jan. 1 if no action is taken.
"When there is no willingness (to compromise), it becomes a struggle," Huelskamp said. "A lot of things were left on the table - the issue of taxes, not seeing a farm bill extension or passage.
Huelskamp also told The News in April about the farm bill proceedings that "when you're an urban Congress with about 12 farmers, it's hard," he said.
But now, one of the dozen or so farmers in Congress is off the industry's main committee.
According to the House Agriculture Committee, the last time there wasn't a Kansan represented was during the 1911-1913 session.
Dudley Doolittle, a Democrat from Cottonwood Falls in Chase County, was elected to the 63rd Congress and was assigned a post to the House Agriculture Committee in 1913. Doolittle's appointment was followed by the long line of Kansans, which included Garden City Republican Clifford Hope, who also served as the committee's chairman from 1947 to 1949 and from 1953 to 1955.
Meanwhile, Kansas' Big First District, largely a rural district with an economy centered on agriculture, has always had its representative on the ag committee, starting with Bob Dole in 1963. Dole was succeeded by a long list of Republicans, including Keith Sebelius, Pat Roberts - who also chaired the committee for a few years - and Moran.
Huelskamp's removal brought a mixture of responses from Kansas leaders.
"I'm disappointed about it," said Ron Suppes, vice president of the Kansas Wheat Commission and a farmer from Dighton. "We need to be represented, and that's part of the problem. People across the United States are getting further removed from the farm."
Former Senate President Steve Morris, who lost his seat to Larry Powell, R-Garden City, during the August primary, said the move reminded him of an incident 10 years ago where Huelskamp was kicked off a Kansas legislative committee "for bad behavior."
Former Senate President Dave Kerr of Hutchinson, who most recently served as the president of the Reno County Chamber of Commerce upon retirement from politics, said the Organization, Calendar and Rules Committee removed Huelskamp from the Ways and Means Committee.
"I'm not surprised," Kerr said of Huelskamp's situation. "He was never helpful in finding solutions on major issues" while in the Kansas Legislature.
"Clearly, it is the First District that should be on the (agriculture) committee," Kerr said. "Agriculture is the No. 1 industry in the big First District and Kansas deserves representation on the agriculture committee."
Morris, a Republican from Hugoton, a southwest Kansas farmer who said his farmland is suffering amid three years of drought, added that "he isn't supportive of the tax credit for wind energy, and that certainly hurts us in Kansas."
Meanwhile, Kansas Farm Bureau President and Ottawa County farmer Steve Baccus said he can only hope that one of the state's other representatives can secure a seat on the committee.
"We really think that we need a Kansan on the ag committee," he said from the state's largest farm organization's annual convention Tuesday. "If we are going to enact ag policy that affects Kansas, we would like to see Pompeo, Yoder or Jenkins."
But, he added, "We're not going to tell the leadership what to do."
Baccus said Wichitan Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas, has expressed interest in Kansas production agriculture, visiting farms and asking questions. But, he added that Overland Park's Kevin Yoder, a Republican representative who grew up on a farm near Yoder; and Rep. Lynn Jenkins, a Republican who grew up on a dairy farm by Holton, both would be good candidates for committee membership.
House leadership is still working on committee assignments.
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