If you're an American farmer, you probably noticed a 15-cent per gallon increase in the cost of your diesel fuel as of April 1, thanks to a Congressional blunder.

A provision in a "budget reconciliation bill" passed late last year requires farmers who have traditionally been exempt from fuel taxes to pay the 15-cents per gallon tax at the time of purchase and then request a refund from the federal government.The question most farmers are asking is, "Why?" Most don't deal in paperwork. They deal in realities, like whether there is enough hay to get them through until the first cutting, or whether they can afford to plant 100 acres more barley this year.

The last thing they want to worry about is keeping track of diesel fuel receipts, filling out paperwork, and then waiting months for a tax reimbursement on money they shouldn't have paid anyway.

In all fairness to Congress, few lawmakers actually intended farmers to pay the 15-cent per gallon tax. Already, 17 bills to repeal the law have been introduced in Congress.

But until then, angry farmers are shaking their heads and their fists, wondering just what in the world Congress is doing. "Plainly put, on April 1, we began making interest-free loans to the federal government to finance the federal deficit. The money isn't even the government's to take," said Dean Kleckner, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.

That's never stopped the federal government before. Congress should move quickly to correct this bad piece of legislation.