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Ag Secretary says No Choice but to Pass a Farm Bill this Year


Vilsack farm bill update

Who and what would benefit from a new farm bill? It has been over 2 years and now time is running short yet again for Congress to get a bill to the President by the end of this year, so the many beneficiaries of a farm bill have been outlined in a new report from the White House Rural Council.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack discussed the report Thursday and was almost dismissive of the thought of Congress unable to get a bill done in 2013.

“This isn’t a situation where you have a choice,” he said. “The reality is that we have to have a clear indication from Congress that this is going to get done. Obviously there are some who are skeptical about that given the fact that we’ve already seen one year with inaction, and people say we can always extend.”

But there are issues with another extension as Vilsack outlined.

“With an extension there come costs and you don’t get the reforms that this bill that is being considered by the conference committee will provide. It does not provide the savings that I think is important to members of Congress as they deal with deficit reduction challenges. It in fact will likely cost additional resources and it will be difficult to identify those additional resources. So the key here is to focus on getting the job done and understanding that there is a consequence if the job doesn’t get done.”

That consequence is that USDA will be required by law to reinstitute the farm policies of the 1940’s.

Vilsack believes the all important safety net for farmers will be dominated by crop insurance and not target prices.

“People choose to farm not just because they love it, but because there are risk management tools in a farm bill that basically minimize and create an acceptable level of risk associated with farming,” he explained. “You have no control over floods. You have no control over drought. You have no control over snowstorms, but you can control and mitigate the consequences of the those natural disasters through appropriate safety net programs.”

It is Vilsack’s hope that the council report will be consumed by members of congress so they are reminded of the wide scope of impact of a farm bill and agriculture itself.

The full White House Rural Council report is online here.