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Roberts: Farm bill will pass

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

LA CROSSE -- There's plenty left to be done when Congress returns after Tuesday's presidential election, Sen. Pat Roberts told a small gathering of people in the Rush County Courthouse.

That task, he told students from the La Crosse High School government class, will fall to a lame-duck Congress.

"That's a bad way to do business," he said.

His comments Monday afternoon were interspersed with short conversations with the students. He sought to know what several aspired to do, some were hoping to be a fireman, dental hygienist or an artist.

While Roberts, the state's senior senator, was in Kansas to cast an early ballot and appear at a statewide water conference, his thoughts kept returning to the East Coast and how it was handling the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy.

He also recalled a previous visit to La Crosse when American Agriculture Movement members suggested they might kidnap him to bring attention to the plight of farmers.

"That's not a good thing to do," he said. "When you do that, it's a federal offense."

AAM members decided otherwise and didn't even try abducting him, even though it brought out concerns from law enforcement.

"There was a farm crisis back then," he told the students.

Today, the crisis stems from congressional failure to pass a federal farm bill.

"We will probably see that voted on right away," Roberts said of the farm bill, a version of which already has been passed in the Senate.

The bill, he said, saves $25 billion.

In the House, Roberts said, the measure didn't make it to the floor, only because there's not enough votes to pass it.

"We've got a food stamp program that is out of control," Roberts said, and tightening rules and regulations likely could have increased the savings to approximately $50 billion.

But it was untouchable, Roberts said, just as the measure's crop insurance program was out of reach.

"We will get a farm bill," he said. "We will get it done."

But Congress still must deal with the fiscal cliff it's approaching, both in terms of the deficit and the sequestration that's rapidly approaching.

"We need to quit spending money we don't have," he said. "We cannot kick the can down the road. It's going to be painful."

It's also going to have to be a long-term solution.

"It's going to be at least five years," Roberts said.

He's planning to be there, already announcing he will seek another term in 2014.

"I've already announced, I'm running in 2014," he said. "We're still making a difference."