House Fails to Take up Farm Bill Before August Recess
Friday, August 3rd, 2012
Congress failed to pass the Farm Bill before the August recess on Thursday, leaving Georgia farmers with uncertainty about the future.
“There is no security going forward,” said Tas Smith, national affairs specialist for Georgia Farm Bureau. “You have planting decisions coming up without security of having a farm bill in place. Farmers won’t have any security.”
Facing the potential for heated debate over spending on nutrition programs, representatives instead passed a $383 million drought disaster relief measure for livestock producers and left the larger Farm Bill undecided.
House leaders also considered adding a one-year extension to the existing farm bill — which expires at the end of September — but rejected that idea on Wednesday.
“We are strongly supportive of the bill and of passage by the (Sept. 30) deadline,” Smith said. “We are just urging our members to relay to their representatives to pass a farm bill.”
Though election-year politics makes passing a bill more difficult, lawmakers are close to agreement.
In June, the Senate passed a bill to set agriculture subsidy and conservation policy and spend almost $100 billion a year over the next five years for farm and nutrition programs. The bi-partisan House Agriculture Committee approved similar legislation last month.
Without passage, farmers would lose price protections, access to certain conservation programs or crop insurance provided through farm bill, Smith said.
With time running out and legislators close to an agreement on many aspects of the bill, several lawmakers from agricultural districts are urging House leaders to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.
The decision isn’t going to get any easier as the election nears, farmers say.
“The election time brings a certain element of truth,” said Don Chase, an Oglethorpe farmer. “You’ve got to answer to people. I hope we get something done before the election.”
While it’s not the full Farm Bill, the disaster relief measure is welcome news for livestock producers who saw the program expire nearly a year ago.
U.S Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday declared another 218 counties disaster areas due to prolonged drought, including six more counties in Georgia.
Now more than half the country (50.3 percent) has been declared natural disaster areas due to damage and losses from drought and excessive heat. In Georgia, the USDA has added Bartow, Cherokee, Cobb, Haralson, Paulding and Polk counties to the list.
Allison Floyd is a writer and editor living in Athens, Ga. She can be reached at email@example.com.