Washington With plains across Kansas looking more like the desert, Sens. Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts defied the White House Tuesday by voting in favor of nearly $6 billion in aid to drought-ravaged producers.
Both senators argued that the newly-enacted farm law is slashing farm income as much as the prolonged dry weather and high temperatures. In a speech on the floor, Roberts told how the drought has scorched Kansas pastures and forced cattlemen to sell off herds.
"The combines have never left the shed in many parts of Kansas," Roberts said. "And I've got bankers telling me that they cannot cash-flow a single producer that does business at their facility."
Roberts derided provisions in the six-year, $190 billion farm bill that were intended to create a safety net for producers, saying: "It's a hammock, not a safety net."
He and Brownback voted against the farm bill in May, calling it too expensive and a return to Depression-era farm policy.
Not only are subsidy checks delayed under the new farm law, but countercyclical payments are reduced because drought has pushed prices higher by shortening supplies. New loan rates, or price guarantees, won't help because producers need a crop to use them.
"With the loss of crops that we have, our guys are really taking it on the chin in this drought," Brownback said in an interview after the vote. "The farmers and ranchers of Kansas need this assistance, and they're not going to be getting the assistance from the farm bill."