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Senator visits dairy, talks farm bill’s impact

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Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) visits the Fresno State dairy Wednesday to talk about farm bill and possible effects on the dairy industry. Photo Roe Borunda

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) toured the Fresno State dairy Wednesday and spoke with students and media about the need for a new farm bill.

After visiting the facilities on campus and having some ice cream, Moran talked about the valuable role the students hold in the agricultural world.

“Those who care about animals, who care about crops, who care about feeding people around the world, that is a calling that is worth pursuing,” Moran said while standing in the dairy with students and President Joseph Castro.

Moran serves on the appropriations committee, including the agriculture appropriations subcommittee, and is the lead Republican on the education subcommittee.

Both the House and Senate have their own versions of the legislation and a committee has been working to resolve the differences. A task, he said, that has been unsuccessful so far.

“After two years of delays, it would be a damning outcome if this Congress can’t get something as important as the farm bill done,” Moran said.

He said key parts of the farm bill pertain to dairy policy.

“That policy is somewhat controversial,” Moran said. “California dairymen are generally interested in the most free-market-oriented policies, the least intrusion from government, which expands their opportunity to export milk and milk products. It’s dairy policy that drives the bill getting done by end of year.”

Dr. Art Parham, chair of the of the animal sciences and agricultural education department, said the visit from the senator and the farm bill discussion are important reminders that agriculture doesn’t operate in a political vacuum.

“We would be remiss in our job as educators if we did not prepare our students to deal with the political realities that are involved in our lives,” Parham said. “The dairy industry is very, very controlled by the policies created in Washington [D.C.] or Sacramento. It’s really a bear when they are in conflict. Right now, the milk pricing system is in conflict.”

Fresno State student and dairy club president Stephanie Nash said the California dairy industry has struggled the past few years, and students should be prepared for the challenge.
“If we know about the farm bill and what we can do, we’re going to go into the industry and deal with this,” Nash said.

Parham said students can be a factor in the process for the farm bill before they graduate.
“When you have forums like this, when students have an opportunity to speak with some of the biggest decision makers in our country, then they are active participants,” Parham said. “The fact that our students are in the middle of the No. 1 agricultural production area in the world gives them more credibility than the average student walking the street.”

Moran said that Congress has until the end of the year to pass a new farm bill. If not, Moran said, the old bill will kick in, which would raise milk prices and have detrimental effects on the dairy industry.

“There is enough time,” Moran said. “There is about three weeks in December during which a farm bill could be concluded.

“I’ve had conversations with both the chairperson of the Senate agriculture committee and the chairman of the House agriculture committee, and both seem to be of the belief that it can and will be accomplished.”

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