As late August temperatures move higher and lawmakers home on August recess, Farm Bureau and other groups are urging members to put the heat on their Congressmen to get a new Farm Bill passed. Indiana Farm Bureau President Don Villwock said we are no closer to a new Farm Bill than we were last August, “We are a long way from having a Farm Bill and there is a lot of uncertainty for farmers across the nation.” Farmers need to “Bring the Heat” during the August congressional recess, so members of Congress know they need to get things done when they return to Washington, according to American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. “The Farm Bill is at the very top of the list of things Congress needs to get done,” Stallman said in remarks presented at IDEAg Dakotafest. “We have to keep the heat on Congress to get a five-year Farm Bill done this year. It’s premature to even be talking about an extension” of the 2008 legislation, Stallman emphasized.
The House has passed a Farm Bill. But it is one without a nutrition title, something Villwock says is not going to work, “I don’t think there is enough support for a stand alone Farm Bill that does not contain a nutrition title.” Both the Senate and the White House have stated they would not accept such a Farm Bill.
Indiana Senator Joe Donnelley admits it is politics that are getting in the way of the House and Senate getting together, “This is not that complicated, we need to stand up farmers and for agriculture and get this done.” The House and Senate are about $20 billion apart of funding for food and nutrition programs. Donnelly says there will have to be compromise in order for any progress to be made on a Farm Bill, “There is a number on nutrition programs that will significantly reduce these programs but can still pass.” He added some of the numbers being proposed by the House would totally eliminate some programs and that would not be acceptable to the Senate.
The House and Senate will return to Washington in early September, but the current Farm Bill extension run out at the end of September. Thus, it is unlikely a new bill will be in place before current programs expire. Stallman, however, says there is time if Congress acts quickly, “There is plenty of time in this Congress to pass a five-year farm bill. We have to stay focused on getting it done.” Calling a proposed one-year extension of the current Farm Bill “a cop-out,” Stallman urged farmers and ranchers to keep sending Congress the message that agriculture needs a new, five-year Farm Bill and nothing less.
The number one reason a new Farm Bill is critical, according to Farm Bureau, is because another extension does not give farmers and ranchers the certainty they need to plan the crops they intend to grow and obtain financing ahead of time. In addition, the policy reforms (such as a larger role for crop insurance as part of the farm safety net, more equity across crops grown, and increased support for fruit and vegetable growers) that have been proposed in the new legislation are not possible if the current Farm Bill is extended. Further, a new Farm Bill would help Congress get the nation’s fiscal house in order by saving about $20 billion compared to the 2008 law. “Everyone who eats needs a Farm Bill. Please tell your Senators and House members to get the job done,” Stallman pleaded.