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Published September 03, 2013, 09:53 AM

An earful about ag

Eric Cantor toured the Bakken Oil Patch on Aug. 28 to see North Dakota’s energy production firsthand, but he also talked one-on-one with Cando, N.D., farmer Gene Nicholas about the state’s other leading industry.

By: 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 Oil Patch on Aug. 28 to see North Dakota’s energy production firsthand, but he also talked one-on-one with Cando, N.D., farmer Gene Nicholas about the state’s other leading industry.

Nicholas, a retired state legislator, says 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,” says 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.

Cantor says 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 says. “That title will reflect the reform agenda that we’ve been about in the nutrition program.”

Nicholas says 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 says.

Praise for energy development

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

Cantor praised North Dakota’s approach to energy development and says 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 says. “North Dakota seems to have gotten it right.”

Cramer says 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 says.

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