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Agribiz: Long-term farm bill needed from Congress

POSTED: September 12, 2012 11:30 p.m.

Sometimes people cannot see the forest for the trees. This is the case with some legislation on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives that is considered to be a quick-fix solution for not having a long-term farm bill in place. It is to be considered by the Senate next.

The farm bill is taken up every five years. It is mainly in place to support food and nutrition programs like WIC, and food assistance programs such as food stamps, with more than three-fourths of the bill geared toward these programs, and the remainder going to conservation and farming programs.

The American Farm Bureau Federation on Wednesday urged Senate leaders to “refrain from supporting” any legislation resembling the House-passed disaster bill if such a measure is presented. Supporting such a measure would detract from the larger mission of passing a long-term farm bill.

In a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., AFBF and a dozen other national agriculture organizations said that passing the House disaster bill as a quick fix would do more harm than good to farmers and ranchers.

“This is something our groups do not support,” the letter stated. “We strongly urge you to refrain from this as we fear that passage of a bill similar to the House bill could result in further delays in completing a full five-year farm bill.”

According to the group, in comparison to a disaster bill, completing a five-year farm bill would deliver assistance to eligible livestock producers nearly as quickly and would put into place certainty for future years, and it is paid for in both the House and Senate versions. This highlights the House disaster bill’s $600 million price tag, which clearly would impact funding available for long-term agriculture needs.

The group urged the Senate leaders to reach agreement on a new farm bill before the current program expires Sept. 30. The House Agriculture Committee’s bill, coupled with the Senate bill passed in June, would provide much-needed disaster relief with long-term benefits.

“Both the Senate and the House Agriculture Committees have produced reform-minded, bipartisan bills that address many of the core principles we believe are important, such as strengthening crop insurance as a reliable risk management tool,” the letter concluded. “We remain committed to attempting to pass a five-year farm bill as soon as possible, including the long-term provisions it includes, which would help alleviate the emergency conditions we are seeing across the country.”

The letter also was signed by the following groups: American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Barley Growers Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union, National Milk Producers Federation, National Sunflower Association, Northarvest Bean Growers Association, United Fresh Produce Association, U.S. Canola Association, USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council and Western Growers.

Michael Wheeler is county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension in Hall County. You can contact him at 770-535-8293, www.hallcounty.org/extension. His column appears biweekly on Thursday’s Business page and at gainesvilletimes.com.


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