On Wednesday of this week, something will happen that does not happen very often in agriculture: farmers will rally. A very large and diverse group of farm organizations will gather on the Mall in Washington, DC to rally for passage of a new Farm Bill. Megan Ritter, national affairs coordinator with Indiana Farm Bureau, says the need for a new Farm Bill has galvanized farmers into action, “This is something that we in agriculture do not do very often, come to town and protest.” In an effort to raise public awareness of the need for Congress to pass a new, comprehensive, five-year farm bill before current farm programs expire in September, a coalition of 39 of the nation’s foremost agricultural organizations will hold a rally on the Mall in Washington on September 12. The coalition, called “Farm Bill Now,” is comprised of associations and coalitions representing commodity crops, livestock, dairy, specialty crops, state and local governments, minor crops, energy and bio-based product groups, farm cooperatives and financial groups, as well as the nation’s two largest farm groups: the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union.
The current Farm Bill will come to an end at the end of this month, and many say there is not enough time to get a new one passed. Ritter things there is, “I think it is reasonable to have the House pass a Farm Bill by the end of the month.” The Senate has already passed its version of the bill, so this leaves just a conference committee to hammer out differences. Ritter feels there is a chance all this could occur before the election.
The stumbling block is the food and nutrition program, primarily how much money should be cut from the SNAP program. Rally organizers hope that the united support for a Farm Bill by a politically diverse group of farm organizations will inspire Congress to make some compromises of its own. National Corn Growers Association First Vice President Pam Johnson says Congress needs to hear that the bill is about more than just farmers, “It touches every American because it is a food, jobs, energy, conservation, research and trade bill, too.”
Farm Bill Now launched an interactive web portal at www.FarmBillNow.com, through which visitors to the site can connect to their members of Congress and show their support for a new five-year farm bill. Using messages to Congress via social media, event locations and times, and an online petition, FarmBillNow.com gives both farmers and consumers the resources they need to make their voices heard, telling Congress that the farm bill needs to be completed before the current farm food law expires.
If action is not taken this month, then it will be up to a lame duck session of Congress to deal with the bill in December. Ritter says, if that happens, chances of getting action on a new bill are slim, “There are a lot of things that have been put off until December including several tax issues that are very important to farmers.” A number of Indiana Farm Bureau members will be in Washington and plan to participate in the rally.