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The Ag Agenda

February 2008

Get This Farm Bill Done

Bob Stallman
American Farm Bureau
By Bob Stallman
President, American Farm Bureau

Politics is never an easy game. Those directly involved know that to get something accomplished in Washington you need to roll up your sleeves and settle in for the long haul. In light of this, farmers appreciate the effort the House went to early last year to pass it’s version of the farm bill. The Senate, in the 12th hour, also passed a bill. But we are now moving into the New Year and the farm bill is still not complete.

Farmers and ranchers want Congress and the president to pass and sign the farm bill without further delay. After all the posturing, bantering and politicking, it’s time to just get it done.

Never put off ‘til Tomorrow…

After a great amount of deliberation, both bodies of Congress – representing the wishes of the American populace – have passed farm bill legislation. Immediate conference and passage of an agreement continues to be the highest legislative priority for Farm Bureau members.

Farmers and ranchers already have had to plant 2008 crops or are well into the process of making production decisions for the upcoming growing season – all without a farm bill in place to guide them. Further delay in determining the structure of future farm programs will only add to the confusion and uncertainty farmers already are experiencing.

While we wait for legislation to be completed, federal spending on commodity programs continues to significantly fall from the levels authorized under the previous farm bill. Further, farmers and ranchers are trying to meet substantial new needs in the areas of rural development, renewable energy and conservation without the additional resources that would be provided in a new bill.

Expanded programs aimed at the fruit and vegetable sector for research, trade and nutrition are also locked up in the congressional bills. The same can be said for vital conservation programs of importance to livestock producers.

What you can do Today

The word extension continues to roll off the tongues of some folks who don’t understand the severity of the situation. It’s a little too late in the game and nonsensical to chuck all that’s been done in crafting both pieces of farm legislation and go off on a new path.

A one- or two-year extension of the current farm bill will not provide important, long-term certainty that is critical to farm and ranch families. It would only further erode the budget for farm programs, making it even more difficult in the future to write a bill with a meaningful safety net for America’s farmers and ranchers.

Extension is not the answer. Nor is it a solution to continue to sit on viable, well-thought-out, already- crafted legislation. America’s farmers and ranchers are urging the House and Senate to come to agreement on a final piece of legislation and the president to sign it into law. We can’t afford to play politics any longer.