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House Leader Cantor promises 'sound dairy policy'

Farm Bill seen as example of non-partisan legislative work underway in D.C.

According to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, center, Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas “has the full force of the House behind him, which adopted the Goodlatte-Scott amendment by a landslide vote.” Retired Lancaster County businessman and DPAC founder Bernie Morrissey stands at left. At right is Rep. Joe Pitts, (R-16) who represents Pennsylvania’s 16th District in Congress. Photo by Sherry Bunting

By SHERRY BUNTING
Special for Farmshine

LANCASTER, Pa. -- Far from the bustling beltway of Washington D.C., U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) visited rural Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, on Monday evening to talk about the events of the previous few weeks and to answer questions about the legislative agenda going forward.

Retired ag businessman Bernie Morrissey of Morrissey Insurance publicly thanked Leader Cantor and the Honorable Joe Pitts, who represents parts of Lancaster, Berks and Chester counties in the U.S. House, for their part in bringing the Goodlatte-Scott amendment (Dairy Freedom Act) to a vote when the Farm Bill came from the House Agriculture Committee to the House floor in August.

Morrissey retired a year ago as the former treasurer and founder of the Dairy Policy Action Coalition (DPAC) -- a coalition of grassroots dairy producers actively participating, with a unified voice, on policies and issues affecting milk pricing.

“Your courage has helped dairy farmers have the opportunity to control their own destiny and to keep the government from gaining more control of their farms and the food we all eat,” said Morrissey. “And for that, I thank you and the farmers thank you.”

Morrissey said the landslide vote of the U.S. House of Representatives to adopt the Dairy Freedom Act (Goodlatte-Scott amendment) in place of the Dairy Security Act was a big step toward securing the future freedom and viability of dairy farm families in the county, state and nation by keeping the government from gaining more control over U.S. farmers and food.

He briefly touched on DPAC’s beginnings through barn meetings and how producers from across the state and nation came together to have a voice in the dairy policies affecting milk pricing and the future sustainability of their dairy farms.

Morrissey asked Cantor what lay in store for Farm Bill dairy policy in the weeks ahead, and Cantor replied that Ag Chairman Frank Lucas “has the full force of the House behind him, which adopted the Goodlatte-Scott amendment by a landslide vote.”

“When Chairman Lucas goes to conference committee with his team and the Senate next week, he takes with him the unequivocal position of the House, which is committed to coming out of conference with sound dairy policy,” said Cantor.

Cantor and Pitts also said the efforts of rank-and-file dairy producers in communicating their message of dairy freedom to Washington has also been important, and continues to be important in the coming days as members of the House and Senate Farm Bill conference committee work to iron out the 5-year package, starting Monday, October 28.

The Farm Bill is an example of non-partisan legislative work underway in D.C., said Cantor. He acknowledged there are regional differences, but not necessarily partisan differences. And, he was confident those regional differences in aspects of the total 5-year Farm Bill package would be worked out in conference committee.

He cited other examples of non-partisan or bipartisan progress on legislative efforts by the House and Senate, even though the media eye rests solely on the very partisan divide on Obamacare (a.k.a. Affordable Health Care law), how to balance the budget, and what to do about our nation’s continued extension of borrowing authority each time the debt ceiling is raised.

“We can’t keep borrowing from our children,” said Cantor. One of the things that motivate House leaders and members is they very readily relate to the concerns mothers and fathers have about what the future will be like for their children and what their opportunities will be as Americans.

A cold hard fact, he said, is that future generations will be saddled with “our debt” and this will affect their own sustainability as free Americans.

A National Republican Congressional Committee mixer was a great place to learn how the events unraveled during the government shutdown and subsequent temporary deal to raise the debt ceiling through February and approve a continuing resolution that would fund government operations through January 15 -- even though the sequestration cuts that went into effect last January remain in force.

Cantor told Lancaster Countians they have a most respected statesman representing them in the U.S. House: Rep. Joe Pitts. “He is the moral compass of the House,” said Cantor. Both explained that the future of the Republican Party is built on “staying true to our principles,” even though some of the tactics used in the past few weeks are being judged as failures in the polls.

“In Washington, you have to retain your ability to work with people of all persuasions on the issues,” said Cantor, who also acknowledged that the major impasse continues to center on taxes. He and Pitts explained that President Obama and the Democrat-controlled Senate have dug heels into their position that no permanent deal on the budget or the debt ceiling can be struck without raising taxes. Meanwhile, the Republican leadership is equally committed to long term solutions that do not raise taxes.

And so that can was kicked down the road, but with an important difference. Cantor and Pitts are hopeful that the bipartisan budget committee can become the place where compromise begins and the country can move forward on principles without the tactics that result in putting our credit worthiness and economy at risk.