Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., House Agriculture Committee ranking minority member, prefers to rewrite farm policy this year; however, he reportedly has said he would go along with the one-year extension if Republican leaders agree that it would serve as the basis for a House-Senate conference on the 2012 farm bill.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Chairwoman of Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee said she also would be open to the extension, but that just passing an extension would jeopardize deficit reduction of $23 billion, new risk management tools for farmers and necessary reforms to farm programs. “I think that would be a disaster,”she said.
USDA has designated 1,369 counties in 31 states as disaster areas, making farmers in those areas eligible for low-interest loans, and it has opened acreage set aside through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to emergency haying and grazing. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack on July 23 announced additional steps to assist farmers and ranchers, including opening more land in conservation programs to emergency haying and grazing and encouraging crop insurance companies not to charge interest on unpaid crop insurance premiums for an extra 30 days, to Nov. 1, 2012, for spring crops. AFBF expressed appreciation for USDA’s actions; however, it said, farmers and ranchers in parts of the country may need expedited help because of grazing prohibitions, which could prevent grazing until the nutritional value of grazing plants has been diminished by the drought.
A record 54 percent of pasture and rangeland is in poor or very poor condition, according to AFBF, and some farmers and ranchers already have begun to liquidate their livestock herds.