Column: Torch to help America’s farmers has been passed

We offer our congratulations and best wishes to Randy Neugebauer on his reelection to the U.S. House of Representatives in the Texas 19th District.

We wish him well as he faces what are bound to be some difficult issues over the next two years. I certainly don’t envy any legislator the job of trying to dig the country out of a historic debt, restore economic stability and find ways to keep the citizenry safe. The impediments will be monumental.

Agriculture, for instance, will face serious challenges in the next Congress as budget axes threaten a host of programs constituents thought were safe when laws were passed over the past few years. The folks who farm for a living are among the most patriotic of Americans and most are willing to take their fair share of cuts when budgets have to be pared. It will be up to Neugebauer and others to make certain that farm folk don’t have to bear an unfair burden when those cuts are made.

This next Congress will have to find ways to ensure that America’s farmers have a level playing field in world trade. That’s not the case now. Congress must analyze any trade agreement to make certain that American agricultural interests are not bartered off for concessions in other areas. Food and fiber production are too important to the welfare of the country to be used as trade favors.

Farm state legislators also will continue to battle to maintain the integrity and the safety net provided in the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002. Fighting off calls for payment limitations will require a unified effort, across party lines, to prevail.

Farmers also need an energy bill that gives them more affordable energy to plant, irrigate and harvest their crops. And they need a strong push for renewable fuels.

In his first abbreviated term, Neugebauer worked hard to represent the farm interests in the 19th and his pre- and post-election statements indicate that he will continue that commitment to one of the most important economic components in his district.

We also would be remiss if we did not thank Charlie Stenholm for 26 years of service as a congressman to the farmers and ranchers of Texas and the nation. Stenholm was caught in a Texas redistricting plan that pitted him against Neugebauer.

Regardless of the politics, before redistricting, Texas had two congressmen on the House Agriculture Committee. Now they have one. We wish there had been a better way and that Texas could have maintained its unique position of strength on that crucial committee. But as Stenholm said, it’s the law of the land and we live with it.

The day after the election, Stenholm was uncertain of his future. He did not rule out public service but insisted that his immediate concern was to help his son get cotton out of the field and wheat planted.

We hope Charlie finds a way to put his many years of service, experience and good will to work for the good of the country’s farmers and ranchers. We also hope that legislators, farm organizations and others working for agriculture will avail themselves of this valuable resource.

For now, though, a torch has been passed – reluctantly perhaps – but passed nonetheless, and with its passing we hope that political rifts heal, that hard feelings get buried under the greater need to do what’s necessary to maintain a viable farm economy and that men and women of good will work together to assure that our country remains the great beacon of freedom it has always been.

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