Kansas farmers who have been weathering an epic drought now must also deal with a stormy forecast from Congress.
In recent weeks, U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, has waged a political battle with U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. The fight has made Huelskamp a darling of tea party Republicans but has gotten him ousted from the House Agriculture Committee.
And then U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas was pushed aside as the top Republican on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee.
Roberts remains on the committee but relinquished his role as ranking minority party member to U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., who asserted seniority privilege on Agriculture after having been dropped as the top Republican on another committee.
Terry Holdren, general counsel of the Kansas Farm Bureau, said Roberts' demotion resulted from Senate rules and probably will not affect his influence on the committee and agricultural legislation.
"We are confident that on the Senate side of things, Kansas producers will have a voice and continue to be heard," Holdren said.
But Holdren said Huelskamp's removal from the House Agriculture Committee is a "distasteful" problem. He said the best way for a congressman to influence legislation is by working on it at the committee level. "No longer having a Kansan on Ag is concerning and unfortunate," Holdren said.
Since statehood, Kansas has almost always had a a representative on the House Agriculture Committee. Now that there isn't one, Holdren said Kansas farm interests will have to reach out to other committee members who may have similar Kansas-type issues in their home states.
He said Huelskamp's removal from the committee has stirred up political talk in the district, commonly referred to as the Big First. It is a heavily rural agricultural district that covers 69 counties, stretching from the western Kansas border all the way to Manhattan and Emporia.
In the eastern part of the district, Holdren has heard "some dissatisfaction" with Huelskamp, while the congressman, starting his second term, remains more popular farther west.
Huelskamp has said he was removed from the committee by the House Republican leadership because he stood for conservative principles and that he has been overwhelmed with calls and emails in support of his stands.
John Pendleton, a Douglas County farmer, said he didn't "wring my hands" over Huelskamp's ouster, but he is generally dissatisfied with much of what is happening in Washington. "It's almost sickening how polarized both ends are," he said.
Pendleton said one of his challenges is finding enough time to stay involved with local and national politics that affect agriculture while also trying to keep his farm going. "Even though commodity prices have been good, income is still not at a point where you feel like you can take time off to be involved with activities off your own farm," he said.
But big issues affecting farmers will be front and center for the new Congress, including crafting a farm bill. A trimmed-down, nine-month extension of the 2008 farm bill was approved as part of the "fiscal cliff" bill last week, but farm state lawmakers were not satisfied with it.
"The farm bill process is one of a number of things that you can put in the category of government activities that need to happen so that producers have some certainty," Holdren said.