Efforts to overhaul the federal farm bill are finally gaining traction on Capitol Hill.
U.S. Senator John Boozman of Arkansas voted to help get the bill out of the Senate Agriculture Committee on Tuesday.
“I think this is a great example of Democrats and Republicans working together so that our farmers will understand what the rules are going to be for the next five years… so that they can make important decisions concerning the crops that they’re going to grow, buying equipment that they need, and leasing acreage,” said Boozman. “All of this puts money into the local communities creating jobs and protecting the jobs that we have now.”
Senator Mark Pryor says the bipartisan measure approved by the committee contains guidelines that are better for agriculture in the South. Pryor also sponsored a forestry provision that’s part of the bill.
“The Bio program will allow U.S. timber and U.S. lumber to be used and get certification from the USDA, which puts a little stamp there [on the wood] for the consumer to see when they buy it at the Home Depot, Lowes, or the local lumber yard,” Pryor said. “It also gives these U.S. products a preference when the government is buying wood for building projects etc. so this is good.”
Officials say the measure also contains provisions that would cut spending and create new subsidies for farmers. The farm bill is expected to reach the Senate floor for a full vote next week.
Now that the Justice Department is opening a criminal investigation into the practices of the Internal Revenue Service, Senators Boozman and Pryor want more answers from IRS officials. Boozman says there must be a thorough review of all documents that apparently show IRS agents singled out tea party groups that applied for tax exempt status.
“I think everyone would like to determine the extent of the problem. Those who are guilty should be held accountable; people should be fired; and there might be cases, if they’ve broken criminal statutes, that they should be prosecuted really to be made an example of,” Boozman said in an interview with KUAR News. “This is behavior, regardless of the administration, that simply can’t be tolerated.”
Senator Pryor says there shouldn’t be a rush to judgment until lawmakers have all the details.
“One of the things I’ve learned in these scandals in Washington is the blame game goes full tilt and a lot of people haul off and blame everybody in the world before they know all the facts,” said Pryor during a Wednesday conference call with members of the Arkansas press. “I don’t know all the facts, but I know the Senate Finance Committee is going to be doing some hearings and I look forward to watching this very closely. I just think we shouldn’t tolerate political activity by the IRS.”
On Wednesday, the nation’s top tax official was effectively fired, when President Barack Obama requested that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew ask for the resignation of Steven Miller, the acting IRS commissioner. This all stems from initial reports last Friday when the IRS publicly acknowledged it used extra scrutiny when reviewing the applications of conservative groups.