As Congress Comes Back to Washington, the Future of the Farm Bill Should be Discussed
By Colin Woodall, NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs
As many of you know, Congress comes back to Washington, D.C. on Sept. 10. Our senators and representatives will only be here for eight short days, and here at NCBA we hope during that time that they will address the important issue of the 2012 Farm Bill before the current 2008 Farm Bill expires at the end of this month. As I said in this week’s Beltway Beef audio, Congress has the option of passing a full 2012 Farm Bill, or it can also decide to extend the 2008 bill and its programs for up to a year and return to the debate at a later point in time. A one-year extension of the current 2008 Farm Bill would continue programs such as commodity programs, crop insurance, conservation programs and federal nutrition programs.
Ideally, Congress will pass the full 2012 Farm Bill. Cattle producers support a reduction of the federal deficit while assuring funding for 2012 Farm Bill priorities. The farm bill should minimize direct federal involvement in agricultural production and preserve the individual’s right to manage land, water and resources. This year has been a tough one for farmers and ranchers across the country, especially due to the ongoing drought that has 70 percent of cattle country suffering from abnormal to exceptionally dry conditions. The uncertainty of going through drought, coupled with the lack of permanent relief programs, adds to the challenges cattle producers face every day. Cattlemen must have the ability to make management decisions in a timely manner when faced with drought or other natural disasters.
In June, the Senate passed its version of the 2012 Farm Bill. I was pleasantly surprised by the bipartisan efforts made to move this bill through the Senate very efficiently and without much partisan rhetoric. Both Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Minority Leader Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) should be commended for their leadership on this very important piece of legislation. Their transparency and willingness to listen to all vested interests was very refreshing for NCBA. The Senate version of the Farm Bill incorporates all NCBA priorities. Bottom-line, there is no livestock title, conservation programs – specifically EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) – are maintained and the research title is sustained. All this is done with more than $20 billion in savings to the American taxpayer. We support this legislation and will continue working with Congress to ensure amendments that would interject the federal government into production agriculture are left out of the legislation or soundly defeated.
The House of Representatives version of the Farm Bill is currently stalled, and the bill has not yet been brought to the full House for a vote. The House Agriculture Committee did mark up the bill in July, and we hope that it is brought to the House floor expeditiously.
Now more than ever, as we focus our efforts on working with Congress to ensure another version of this legislation that is positive for cattlemen, I must stress the importance of family farmers and ranchers being engaged in this process. Cattlemen and women across the country deserve the certainty that a full 2012 Farm Bill will bring so that they can continue to provide Americans and the world with abundant, affordable and safe U.S. beef.