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July 30, 2012

AFBF Says Extending the Farm Bill Is Not the Answer

For more information on Newsline, contact: Kari Barbic, Media Specialist, American Farm Bureau Federation, karib@fb.org.

American Farm Bureau Farm Policy Specialist Mary Kay Thatcher says farmers and ranchers need a new farm bill this year. In this report AFBF’s Johnna Miller explains why that’s so important.
Miller:The House of Representatives may vote this week on a farm bill extension. Now you might think this would be good news for the nation’s farmers and ranchers, but not necessarily.
Thatcher:Unless this becomes the vehicle to a conference with the Senate bill, we just don’t think a one-year extension is a very good idea and we don’t think that the disaster assistance that’s provided is anything different at all than what’s in one of the two passed bills already and is inequitable for many producers.
Miller:American Farm Bureau Farm Policy Specialist Mary Kay Thatcher says that’s because those disaster provisions are primarily aimed at those who graze animals. Poultry, hog, fruit and vegetable farmers are left out. But for politicians up for reelection, it’s much easier to vote for disaster assistance than a new farm bill.
Thatcher:This will be a controversial bill. Probably the most controversial aspect is the amount of cuts for food stamps. You have lots of people who think $16 billion in cuts is not enough and you have lots of members of Congress who think it’s too many. So I think that will be a very controversial issue as well as commodity programs and payment limitations.
Miller:Congress will be in recess for the month of August and into September. That leaves only eight or so days to get anything done before they head home to campaign before the election. So if the House doesn’t get something done this week, that makes getting a new farm bill out of this Congress much more of a long shot and that is bad news for farmers and ranchers.
Thatcher:This farm bill will be much harder to do next year than this year. There will be less money. You have to believe that a new Congress coming in is going to be even more concerned about the budget deficit. So if we have many more cuts out of agriculture, it’s going to be almost impossible to write a farm bill that really does have a viable safety net for farmers and ranchers.
Miller:Johnna Miller, Washington.
Miller:We have two extra actualities with AFBF Farm Policy Specialist Mary Kay Thatcher. In the first extra actuality she talks about the disaster assistance in the farm bill extension proposal. The cut runs 24 seconds, in 3-2-1.
Thatcher:One of the big things in this bill is livestock disaster assistance and that’s already included retroactively for 2012 as well as for the next five years in both the Senate-passed bill and the House Ag Committee-passed bill. So all in all an extension is really unnecessary. What’s necessary is that the House either pass a bill or Speaker Boehner allow the bill that’s passed out of the committee to be conferenced with the Senate bill and we get something done in the near future.
Miller:In the second extra actuality Thatcher says the disaster programs in the extension would only help a small portion of farmers and ranchers. The cut runs 32 seconds, in 3-2-1.
Thatcher:Certainly the disaster provisions that are in the bill are going to be helpful but primarily to producers of cattle, a little bit dairy animals, some sheep, but they’re really about indemnities that occur because of bad weather and grazing and when you look at sectors like hogs and poultry and egg producers they’re not going to help them at all. What would help them is if you didn’t such high corn and soybean prices that are driving up feed prices. In addition, there’s really nothing in the bill that helps fruit and vegetable producers. So we’re leaving a lot of sectors of agriculture out as we move forward a fairly limited disaster bill.
Miller:Newsline is updated Mondays and Thursdays by 5pm Eastern time. Thank you for listening.

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