"We need to see a farm bill this year," Marsh said.
Citrus fruit grower Chris Lange of Woodlake said he is concerned about the potential lack of a farm bill and its impact on pest and disease prevention programs and research. Lange in particular mentioned programs addressing what he called "the citrus sector's biggest concern": protecting trees from the fatal disease huanglongbing, or citrus greening, which is carried by an insect called the Asian citrus psyllid.
In addition, he said, the 2008 Farm Bill was the first time that "specialty crops" received their own title within federal farm policy, with programs specifically aimed at fruit, vegetable, nut and horticultural crops. This was a positive shift for California, Lange said, adding that he hopes Congress will be able to produce and pass a farm bill that gives specialty crops the same sort of standing within the bill.
"As specialty crop growers, we feel that we're providing a very healthy product for the consumer, not only domestically but internationally. You certainly want to have the government behind you and when you look at agriculture in California, it would sure be comforting to have a farm bill that is in place; at least we would know what we're living with," Lange said.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said AFBF was "highly disappointed" by the House vote to reject the farm bill.
"It was a balanced bill that would have provided much-needed risk management tools and a viable economic safety net for America's farmers and ranchers," Stallman said. "A completed farm bill is much needed to provide farmers and ranchers certainty for the coming years and to allow the Agriculture Department to plan for an orderly implementation of the bill's provisions."
AFBF farm policy specialist Mary Kay Thatcher called the food-assistance programs "the key" to farm bill passage, with a number of Republicans calling for more than $20 billion in cuts and many Democrats wanting no cuts.
"Hopefully, we'll find a way to bring this bill back up," Thatcher said, "to tweak it enough that we can make everybody happy and get it done and we can go to conference—but it won't be easy."