Cantor talks farm bill during N.D. oil tour

Rep. Kevin Cramer, left, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor speak during a press conference Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, at Target Logistics Bear Paw Lodge in Williston, N.D. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

WILLISTON, N.D. – In the middle of a crew camp that houses North Dakota oil workers, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor got an earful about agriculture.

Cantor, a Republican from Virginia, toured the Bakken on Wednesday to see North Dakota’s energy production firsthand, but he also talked one-on-one with Cando farmer Gene Nicholas about the state’s other leading industry.

Nicholas, a retired state legislator, said he came away from the discussion with confidence that a farm bill “that we can live with” will be passed this year.

The Senate has passed a farm bill that deals with farm programs as well as trimming some funding from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps.

The House has passed a bill just dealing with farm programs and some House Republicans have called for huge cuts to food stamps — which has been a key sticking point.

“They’re working hard on coming up with some middle ground on the food stamp portion of it,” said Nicholas, a Republican. “He stressed that he’s had calls from people that did not support it in the last go around that would support it now.”

Cantor’s visit was closed to the media except for a press conference in which Cantor took three questions.

During the press conference, Cantor said Speaker of the House John Boehner will appoint members of a conference committee on the farm bill in September, after passing a bill dealing with food stamps.

“We in the House expect to move a nutrition title out of the House,” Cantor said. “That title will reflect the reform agenda that we’ve been about in the nutrition program.”

Nicholas said he emphasized to Cantor that a permanent farm bill would give the industry some stability so the rules aren’t always changing for farmers and ranchers.

“If we could put a permanent farm bill in place, I think that would be extremely beneficial to all of rural America,” Nicholas said.

Cantor, hosted by Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., met with energy industry and community leaders at a crew camp in Williston, toured a drilling site and other oilfield locations in the Bakken and met with North Dakota Petroleum Council members in Watford City.

North Dakota’s Democratic Party issued a statement Tuesday calling Cantor the “grim reaper” of the farm bill and criticized Cramer for inviting him to North Dakota.

“If you dusted the knife that gutted the farm bill for prints, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s fingerprints would be all over it,” said Bob Valeu, North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party Chairman.

In his visit, Cantor praised North Dakota’s approach to energy development and said the country needs to follow the state’s example and adopt a national energy policy.

“I hope to be able to tell the president that there’s a lot for him to learn here as far as energy production here in America,” Cantor said. “North Dakota seems to have gotten it right.”

Cramer said although the Obama administration talks about an “all-of-the-above” energy policy, it seems to only support everything but fossil fuels.

“All-of-the-above doesn’t mean just everything above the ground. It also means stuff under the ground,” Cramer said.

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