Washington, D.C.-- With Congress back on Captial Hill for such a short time and the Sept. 30, expiration of the current farm bill looming, farmers, ranchers and a variety of supporters congregated in Washington on Wednesday.
The "Farm Bill Now!" rally drew hundreds of agriculture supporters from across the nation. The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), along with the National Farmers Union (NFU) hosted the event. Roger Johnson, NFU president, and Bob Stallman, AFBF president, emceed the “Farm Bill Now!” rally.
“We are all united on one thing; we need a farm bill and we need a farm bill now,” Johnson said.
Joining the farmers and ranchers were participants from across the country, including congressional members and leaders from agriculture, conservation, energy, consumer and nutrition organizations. For a variety reason, not the least of which involves the nation's worst drought in five years, the rally goers want Congress to get focused and pass a new, comprehensive, five-year farm bill before the 2008 Farm Bill expires. While the House and Senate each have passed their versions, the divide between the two is large and election politics will likely stall progress.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, said the new farm bill is "stuck at the moment,"
“Perhaps never in the history of farm legislation have so many diverse farmer and rancher voices joined together for such a common call for action on a farm bill,” said Stallman.
The farm bill isn't just a bill for farmers. USDA says, 1 in every 12 American jobs relates directly back to the farm. Rally supporters are encouraging Congress to reach agreement on the House Agriculture Committee and Senate-passed bills.
The event was endorsed by 88 organizations representing a broad range of commodity and specialty crops, livestock, dairy, state and local governments, energy and biobased products, farm cooperatives and financial groups. However, the National Pork Producers Council was not among them. Instead, pork producers joined in Washington, D.C., for the bi-annual Legislative Action Conference to visit with their representatives and senators one-on-one.
"We have chosen to focus on what we can do about the drought for pork producers, who don't benefit from the drought package being discussed on the Hill," says Audrey Adamson, NPPC's vice president of domestic policy issues. "That said, we are supportive of getting a farm bill sooner than later." Also, pork have no direct programs associated with the farm bill.
Among the topics that the pork producers focused on during their congressional visits were feed availability challenges for livestock farmers, efforts to address federal mandates on-farm production standards, the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negiotiations, as well as a U.S. and E.U. free-trade agreement.
Congressional members who spoke at the event included Stabenow; Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan.,; Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., ranking member of the Agriculture Committee; and Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D..