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November 4, 2013

A New Farm Bill by Christmas?

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

There’s actually movement on the farm bill. American Farm Bureau Public Policy Director Dale Moore talks about the outlook for passage this year and why it’s important. AFBF’s Johnna Miller has the story.
MillerThe farm bill has been a three-year odyssey, according to American Farm Bureau Public Policy Director Dale Moore, but he thinks the long road to legislation may finally be getting close to the finish line.
MooreWe were excited last week when we saw the House and Senate farm bill conference have its official kickoff. There’s going to be some tough issues they sort out, but the great news is, the House and Senate Agriculture Committees are now sitting down, sorting out the differences between their two bills. We’ve got the President who made the comment, ‘it’s time to get a farm bill done.’ We’ve got House and Senate leadership saying that and we’ve certainly got dedicated chairs and ranking members on both committees they’re going to make sure it gets done. So rather than being the glass half full/half empty, I’m going to say right now I’m looking at the glass as three-quarters full and it’s not a matter of “if”, but just how quickly they can get this done.
MillerBut the farm bill gets a lot of negative publicity from political pundits and a lot of apathy from the general public. Moore thinks that’s because many don’t look at the bill in its entirety.
MooreMost folks, when you say ‘farm bill’, they think of the farm subsidies, they may think of conservation programs, but they don’t think of all the other things that are covered, the nutrition side of the equation. When reporters we’re talking about the near-trillion dollar farm bill, well, understand that 75 percent of that bill is actually helping feed folks who need nutrition assistance.”
MillerThat’s right, 75 percent of the bill goes to feed hungry people. There are also environmental programs.
MooreIt provides technical assistance to farmers and ranchers all over the country helping them improve the conservation on their farm, but it also has the co-benefit of providing all of us as Americans an improved wildlife habitat, water conservation, soil conservation, air quality, you name it, that all works together. A number of programs like the Wildlife Incentives Program help set aside certain lands to protect wildlife in certain areas.
MillerIn other words, Moore says the farm bill is more than most people realize and the new version will likely be an improved version.
MooreThey’ve gotten rid of direct payments. The criticism that has gone on for some time which is that folks who have little to do with day-to-day production agriculture are receiving a benefit based on a historical factor. They’ve taken some of that money and applied it to deficit reduction. They’re helping address the farmer safety net needs to help provide some kind of assistance when times are bad. A farm bill is not written for the good times. It’s written for when things are bad, when farmers need the safety net. So that they have that certainty if something bad happens I know between crop insurance and my safety net I will survive to get started again next year.
MillerSo hopefully we’ll have a new farm bill by Christmas. Johnna Miller, Washington.

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