In an election year, you try to impress the various voting blocs and constituencies.
While the farm population in this country keeps dwindling, there is still a sizeable number of voters who have a keen interest in federal farm policy. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers from a few years ago, there are 1.2 million people employed as farmers, ranchers or agricultural managers. Their numbers are buttressed by loyal family members and allied industry types.
Not getting a Farm Bill passed this year could alienate many of these people.
It’s in agriculture’s best interest to get a Farm Bill passed this year. Budget pressures are likely to build in the coming years and, frankly, agriculture stands a better chance of getting the money it needs this year than next year.
With the possibility of significant changes in dairy policy on the horizon, it’s important for dairy farmers to know what to expect so they can plan accordingly.
And, no one wants to revert to the 1949 Farm Bill ― the fallback permanent law ― when the current Farm Bill expires on Sept. 30. This might be avoided with a one-year extension, but it would simply push the debate further down the road and create greater uncertainty.
Many farmers will need drought aid this year. Yet, according to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, many of the disaster-assistance programs authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill have expired and won't be renewed unless a new bill is passed. Read more.
So, why is the Republican leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives seemingly holding up discussion of the 2012 Farm Bill?
It has frustrated many rank-and-file Republicans.
U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, told AgriTalk Radio listeners this week that he would like to see the Farm Bill come up for floor debate as soon as possible so there is sufficient time to get the details worked out in and around the August congressional recess.
An article last week in Politico quoted Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) as saying, “Bring this bill to the floor ― fast.” Read “GOP leaders may squash farm bill.”
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) has expressed concern that there doesn’t seem to be path for getting this issue settled in a timely manner.
“I’ve always been very skeptical, concerned that there was a not a path in the House of Representatives to accomplish a Farm Bill in any kind of timely fashion ― before its expiration, before the election, before the New Year,” he told an AgriTalk Radio audience on Wednesday.
“I just don’t see this bill coming to the House floor anytime soon,” Moran said.
It’s a shame, because a version of the Farm Bill has already passed in the Senate and the House Agriculture Committee. It’s one of the few pieces of legislation that has bipartisan support.
Pigeonholing it in the middle of the process simply reinforces the notion that Congress is dysfunctional and can’t get anything meaningful done.
What are the Republican leaders thinking?
Also, see “Congress delays farm bill as drought spreads” from Politico.