Indiana Congressman Joe Donnelly is back in Indiana but is not happy about leaving Washington without voting on a new Farm Bill, “Hoosier farmers deserved a vote on the Farm Bill this week. Our farmers face an incredible amount of uncertainty, whether it’s from Mother Nature or market prices. It is disappointing that Congress’ inaction will now be a cause for concern as well.” He told HAT that House leaders did not bring the bill to the floor because of a disagreement over nutrition programs, “The House Farm Bill cuts $16 billion from the food and nutrition program, but some members wanted more cuts.” Donnelly believes that, if the bill had been brought to the floor, there were enough votes to pass the legislation. He said election year politics got in the way of good policy making, “This time of year, there are a number of folks in this town that worry about political messaging, but I have always been convinced that the best message to send to our constituents is to show them that we are capable of completing the work they elected us to do. I am disappointed House leadership prevented us from completing our work on the 2012 Farm Bill.”
House speaker John Boehner has indicated he will bring the Farm Bill to the floor when Congress returns after the election for a lame duck session. But Donnelly worries there may not be enough time to pass a 5 year bill, “What I am hearing is that only a 1 year extension will be considered in November; we don’t need to kick the can down the road again, we need a 5 year Farm Bill and we need it now.”
Senate Ag Committee chairman Debbie Stabenow says a 1 year extension is not acceptable to the Senate, “I am not interested in an extension I am interested in getting a 5 year Farm Bill done.” She told reporters on Thursday, “All the farm groups are united in saying they are not supportive of an extension they want to get the work done.”
Stabenow believes if the House can pass a 5 year Farm Bill a House/Senate conference committee can work out differences between the two bills, “I believe we can come to the middle and get the differences resolved. What we need is a signal from the Speaker of the House that he will support the Ag Committee Chairman and let him negotiate in a conference committee.” The current Farm Bill expires at the end of September, but USDA has indicated there will be no major changes or program cuts until the first of the year.
ASA President Steve Wellman, a soybean farmer from Syracuse, NE, voiced the association’s frustrations in the following statement: “The American Soybean Association cannot overstate our disappointment in the House of Representatives for ignoring the voices of American farmers. In no uncertain terms, Congress has let farmers down by not taking action on a new five-year farm bill.” He added it is a sad day when politics trumps the interests of farmers and rural America, “It is a sad statement on the perceived lack of importance of rural America in Washington when a bipartisan bill that provides certainty for farmers, livestock disaster assistance, nutrition programs, crop insurance improvements, conservation of our natural resources and reduces our Nation’s budget deficits is shelved in favor of scoring political points in an election year.”
Wellman said ASA is on record as not supporting the idea of a 1 year extension of the Farm Bill, “When members of Congress return after the election in November, the excuses and the foot-dragging must stop, and the House must dedicate itself to passing a new comprehensive five-year farm bill that provides farmers with the stability, security and certainty they need while doing agriculture’s part to contribute to deficit reduction. Anything less will be another failure by Washington on the part of American farmers.”
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