Washington, D.C.-- With Congress back on Capitol Hill for such a short time and the Sept. 30, expiration of the current farm bill looming, farmers, ranchers and a variety of supporters congregated in Washington on Wednesday.

The "Farm Bill Now!" rally drew hundreds of agriculture supporters from across the nation. The American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union hosted the event.

“We are all united on one thing; we need a farm bill and we need a farm bill now,” Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, said.

Joining the farmers and ranchers were participants from across the country, including congressional members and leaders from agriculture, conservation, energy, consumer and nutrition organizations. For a variety reason, not the least of which involves the nation's worst drought in five years, the rally goers want Congress to get focused and pass a new, comprehensive, five-year farm bill before the 2008 Farm Bill expires. While the House and Senate each have passed their versions, the divide between the two is large and election politics will likely stall progress.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, said the new farm bill is "stuck at the moment,"

“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 Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.

The farm bill isn't just a bill for farmers. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one in every 12 American jobs relates directly back to the farm. Rally supporters are encouraging Congress to reach agreement on the House Agriculture Committee- and Senate-passed bills.

The event was endorsed by 88 organizations representing a broad range of commodity and specialty crops, livestock, dairy, state and local governments, energy and bio-based products, farm cooperatives and financial groups. However, the National Pork Producers Council was not among them. Instead, pork producers joined in Washington, D.C., for the bi-annual Legislative Action Conference to visit with their representatives and senators one-on-one.  

Congressional members who spoke at the event included Stabenow; Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan.; Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., ranking member of the Agriculture Committee; and Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D.