The American Farm Bureau Federation said Monday a House proposal to extend the current farm bill for one year fails to move the nation any closer to securing a comprehensive, long-term farm bill and the organization would stand in opposition.
The House leadership has resisted calls to bring the farm bill (H.R. 6083), passed by the House Agriculture Committee and supported by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), to the floor for a vote.
Late last Friday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., announced that the House “may consider a farm bill extension” this week. The legislation would provide for a one-year extension of current law governing farm programs, including commodity programs, crop insurance, conservation programs and federal nutrition programs, as well as reauthorize supplemental agricultural disaster assistance for the 2012 fiscal year, retroactively, and for the 2013 fiscal year.
Republican leaders say they would support a one year extension of current farm law and already-expired disaster assistance programs for livestock producers. The extension could be passed as early as this week. The current Farm Bill expires Sept. 30. The proposed extension would run through Sept. 30, 2013.
“A one-year extension offers our farm and ranch families nothing in the way of long-term policy certainty,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “Farmers and ranchers always face decisions that carry very serious financial ramifications, such as planting a crop, buying land or building a herd, and we need clear and confident signals from our lawmakers.”
The extension bill “does nothing to help hog or poultry producers, little to provide assistance to the dairy industry and nothing to aid fruit and vegetable producers who may not have crop insurance available to them as a risk management tool,” according to Stallman. “We are encouraging members of the House and their leaders to recognize the example set by both the Senate and House Agriculture Committee chairs and ranking members to forge fiscally responsible bipartisan legislation. An extension falls well short of that target.”
“Passing on the opportunity to complete a farm bill now will make it even more difficult next year as we would have to restart the process with a new Congress and, most likely, an even tighter budget situation,” explained Dale Moore, AFBF farm policy specialist. “Farmers and ranchers need to know what farm programs will be available over the longer term in order to make their plans and obtain financing. Kicking the can down the road just means more uncertainty for folks who are already dealing with a lot of volatility and unexpected challenges like this drought.”
Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., House Agriculture Committee ranking minority member, prefers to rewrite farm policy this year; however, he reportedly has said he would go along with the one-year extension if Republican leaders agree that it would serve as the basis for a House-Senate conference on the 2012 farm bill.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Chairwoman of Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee said she also would be open to the extension, but that just passing an extension would jeopardize deficit reduction of $23 billion, new risk management tools for farmers and necessary reforms to farm programs. “I think that would be a disaster,”she said.
USDA has designated 1,369 counties in 31 states as disaster areas, making farmers in those areas eligible for low-interest loans, and it has opened acreage set aside through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to emergency haying and grazing. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack on July 23 announced additional steps to assist farmers and ranchers, including opening more land in conservation programs to emergency haying and grazing and encouraging crop insurance companies not to charge interest on unpaid crop insurance premiums for an extra 30 days, to Nov. 1, 2012, for spring crops. AFBF expressed appreciation for USDA’s actions; however, it said, farmers and ranchers in parts of the country may need expedited help because of grazing prohibitions, which could prevent grazing until the nutritional value of grazing plants has been diminished by the drought.
A record 54 percent of pasture and rangeland is in poor or very poor condition, according to AFBF, and some farmers and ranchers already have begun to liquidate their livestock herds.