Hundreds of farmers, ranchers, and supporters of agriculture gathered in the shadow of the Capitol in Washington, DC on Wednesday; and, like most rallies on the Mall, the Farm Bill Now rally was loud and proud. With chants of “Farm Bill Now,” the group waved signs and listened to a variety of speakers all calling for action on a new Farm Bill. Gary Niemeyer, President of the National Corn Growers, told the crowd the rally was not about politics but about getting a Farm Bill done, “I got off my combine and came here for one reason: to tell Congress to do their job.” He said it is time to put politics aside, “Farm policy has always not only been bi-partisan but non-partisan.” Yet, it is politics that is holding up action on a new Farm Bill. Tom Buis, with Growth Energy, said that, with lawmakers only in town for a few more days, it is unlikely a new Farm Bill can be acted on before the current one expires at the end of this month.
After the rally broke up, many of those in attendance went to Capitol Hill to visit their Congressmen to deliver the message one-on-one. A delegation of Indiana Farm Bureau members attended the rally; and a number of lawmakers also attended the rally, including Indiana Congressman Joe Donnelly. Following the rally, he released a statement that said: “Hoosier farmers deserve a vote on the Farm Bill now. Farmers face an incredible amount of uncertainty, whether it is from Mother Nature or market prices. We cannot allow the inaction of Congress to be another cause for concern. Republicans and Democrats should come together and pass a Farm Bill before it expires. Our agriculture community has been a powerful economic force in recent years. We cannot afford further inaction.”
National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson co-hosted the rally with American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. They were joined on stage by many members of Congress and leaders from a broad spectrum of supporting organizations. “We are all united on one thing; we need a farm bill and we need a farm bill now,” said Johnson. “Perhaps never in the history of farm legislation have so many diverse farmer and rancher voices joined together for such a common call for action on a farm bill,” said Stallman during the event. “We gather here under a banner adorned with three words. FARM. BILL. NOW. And we are here to raise our voices toward Capitol Hill…for a shared purpose.”
National Milk Producers Federation First Vice Chairman Ken Nobis, a dairy farmer from St. John, MI, told those assembled that politics shouldn’t stand in the way of helping America’s farmers. “Dairy farmers have worked with Democrats and Republicans, in the Senate and the House, to create a farm bill that saves taxpayers money, and at the same time offers dairy producers a more effective safety net when times are tough,” Nobis said. “It would be a tragic mistake, after this bill has already passed the Senate, and the House Agriculture Committee, to let it wither and die on the political vine, rather than make the necessary effort to get it passed in the coming weeks.”
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, chairwoman of the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee; Sen. Jerry Moran, R-KS; Rep. Collin Peterson, D-MN, ranking member of the Committee on Agriculture; and Rep. Kristi Noem, R-SD, also addressed the crowd.
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