GUEST COMMENTARY: It's time to stand up for rural Missouri

Monday, June 17, 2013 | 11:51 a.m. CDT; updated 8:14 p.m. CDT, Monday, June 17, 2013

It's that time of year again.

Last June, the United States Senate passed a Farm Bill that would save taxpayers $23 billion, eliminate wasteful and redundant programs while maintaining a safety net for Missouri farmers, and provide critical aid to Missouri ranchers who were devastated by drought. For the next six months, the U.S. House of Representatives failed to even bring that bill to the floor for a vote.

The U.S. House made the bill disappear — threatening the security Missouri's farmers and ranchers need to continue making agriculture the cornerstone of our state's economy.

Despite this setback, I was committed to doing everything I could to pass a Farm Bill this year. This year's bill required some Missouri-style compromise and commonsense — and while nobody got everything they wanted, it's a bill that we can all be proud of, and that passed the Senate with a large bipartisan majority. And having spoken to Missouri's farmers and ranchers, I know this is a bill they want to see passed as quickly as possible. 

This year's Senate Farm Bill will save U.S. taxpayers over $24 billion — over a billion dollars more than last year's legislation. It also ends the wasteful Direct Payments program, which provides farmers with government handouts even when prices are high, often for crops they aren't even growing. I've worked with my Democratic and Republican colleagues for over a year to end Direct Payments, and I'm thrilled we've finally done just that. Our legislation also reauthorizes livestock disaster assistance programs — which will provide critical support to ranchers impacted by last summer's disastrous drought — through 2018. In addition, the bipartisan bill includes new dairy programs to help Missouri dairy farmers maintain reasonable margins in the face of rising input costs.

So, as the calendar brings another June and the Senate passes another Farm Bill, the question becomes: where do we go from here? Will the U.S. House finally stop sitting on its hands and pass this critical legislation, or will our farmers and ranchers continue waiting around for resources and security that never come?

I'm urging my colleagues in the House to take up legislation and participate in the debate.

As a daughter of rural Missouri, I've always known that farming was important to our values as well as our economy. When Missouri farmers and ranchers are prospering, our whole state benefits.

Claire McCaskill is a senator from Missouri.

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