|7:46 PM EDT||
Tom Osborne, R-NE 3rd
Mr. OSBORNE. Mr. Speaker, I rise to congratulate Chairman LARRY COMBEST on a long and successful congressional career. I was privileged to serve on the Committee on Agriculture under LARRY. We were certainly at opposite ends of the spectrum. My first 2 years on the committee were LARRY'S last 2. I was without status. He was the chairman. Regardless of seniority, each person had access to LARRY and his staff on an equal basis. I have always felt that the true measure
of a person's character was how he treated those who could do nothing for him. In that respect, I thought that LARRY was really exemplary and I really appreciated the way I was received.
The most significant accomplishment of the Committee on Agriculture the last 2 years was reauthorization of the farm bill. This was a very exhaustive process. It went on over 2 years, involving roughly 50 hearings, 25 of those in various parts of the country and 25 here in Washington. Input was received from such diverse groups as the Farm Bureau, Farmers Union, corn and soybean, rice and cotton, fruits and vegetables, Ducks Unlimited, Nature Conservancy and the Sierra Club. Everybody had a chance.
What the chairman did was ask each group to write the farm bill as they saw it needing to be written and also to score it, to come up with what it was going to cost; and so this was kind of a unique approach because I think everybody that tried began to realize how complex this was.
Again, he took input from every group. The bill was written in full committee, which I appreciated. Everybody had a chance to speak their piece. It was truly bipartisan. We hear the term bipartisan around here all the time, but this was a case where I can really, honestly say that I do not believe either side was given any advantage and that each side felt they had equal ownership, and as a result the farm bill was passed almost unanimously out of the Committee on Agriculture.
LARRY was under a great deal of pressure to delay the writing of the farm bill until 2003. Yet he realized that agriculture was in trouble, that we were surviving each year on roughly a 7, $7.5 billion emergency payment and this simply could not go on, so he pressed forward and got the bill done in 2002 in the face of a fair amount of criticism. I thought that he showed great tenacity in doing so, and I really appreciated his efforts.
I visited South America with LARRY and other members of the Committee on Agriculture a little bit more than a year ago, and I can recall one meeting in Brazil with their agriculture leadership in which they were very critical of U.S. farm policy. They thought they were poised to take over the soybean market of the world, and I remember LARRY'S response. He said, ``My responsibility is to protect the interests of American farmers and ranchers.'' That is what he did. Our farmers and
ranchers really comprise only 1 percent roughly of our population. At one time they were a very significant part of our population. Now they are about 1 percent, and so they certainly need advocates. I really appreciate the fact that Chairman Combest truly did all that he could to represent a very important and often unappreciated part of our Nation.
I would like to thank the chairman for his contribution and for his career here and for the way that he worked with other people to bring agriculture to the forefront during the farm bill.