by Pettus L. Read – Director of Communications for Tennessee Farm Bureau
Farm Bill Affects Every American
Who would have ever thought that the year 2012 would have seen not only a Congress deadlocked over passing farm legislation due to electoral politics, but also our nation’s farmers caught between that debacle and a drought that could push many producers right out of business. With current farm programs expiring in September, America’s farmers, who face drastic losses due to the drought, are wondering where to turn next.
Back in June, the Senate passed their version of a farm bill, but the House of Representatives failed to follow suit before leaving on their August recess to go home and visit with their constituents. With no farm bill in hand and a drought to boot, farmers and farm organizations across this nation were left wondering, needing something to make farm plans on, like a full 5-year farm bill. Not knowing what the winter may hold and next spring’s planting right around the corner, agriculture producers want Congress to act.
If you have ever been in the middle of a farm debate at your local gathering place of farmers, you may have witnessed the difficulty of three or four of them coming together with the same opinion, but that is not the case nationwide, today, concerning the farm bill. A coalition of 39 farm groups, have joined together, committed to the goal of passing a farm bill this year. Called Farm Bill Now, in a press release from the coalition, they report the group comprises of associations and coalitions representing commodity crops, livestock, dairy, specialty crops, state and local governments, minor crops, energy and biobased product groups, farm cooperatives and financial groups, as well as the nation’s two largest farm groups, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union.
The coalition has even drafted a position paper called, “Why We Need a Farm Bill,” that outlines their position on why they want the farm bill passed this year. Here is their position:
“Calling the farm bill the ‘farm bill’ suggests its impact is limited only to farms and to the rural areas to which they are so closely tied. It’s really a jobs bill. A food bill. A conservation bill. A research bill. An energy bill. A trade bill. In other words, it’s a bill that affects every American.
“The farm bill affects our nation’s ability to provide the necessities of life for a global population projected to pass 9 billion by 2050. Here at home, it affects an industry that provides 23 million—or 1 in every 12—American jobs.
“The farm bill has broad impact on our citizens and our economy. It provides healthy foods to millions of schoolchildren and nutritious options to families in need. It develops and expands trade with valuable foreign markets. By reducing spending significantly compared to prior farm bills, the proposals pending right now in Congress address the need to get our nation’s fiscal house in order.
“And yes, it benefits American farms—98 percent of which are owned and operated by families. It helps big farms and small farms, major crops and specialty crops, organic farmers and conventional farmers, cattle ranchers and cotton ginners, farmers markets and national suppliers, and the vast range of other pursuits that make up American agriculture. This year, it would help farmers tackle the challenges posed by the worst drought in a generation.
“While Congress waits to finish the farm bill, we are united in asking all Americans to encourage legislators—home for summer town hall meetings and speeches—to finish this vital legislation before the current farm and food law expires in September. After all, it’s your bill too.”
The groups signed on to the coalition are: 25x’25 Alliance, Agricultural Retailers Association, American Beekeepers Federation, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Feed Industry Association, American Pulse Association, American Seed Trade Association, American Sheep Industry Association, American Soybean Association, American Sugar Alliance, Biobased Products Coalition, Council of State Governments East, Council of State Governments Midwest, Farm Credit Council, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Barley Growers Association, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Cotton Council, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Farmers Union, National Milk Producers Federation, National Potato Council, National Sorghum Producers, National Sunflower Association, Northharvest Bean Growers Association, Northeast State Association for Agricultural Stewardship, Produce Marketing Association, Southern Peanut Farmers Federation, Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, State Agriculture and Rural Leaders, United Dairymen of Arizona, United Fresh Produce Association, U.S. Canola Association, U.S. Dry Bean Council, USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council, USA Rice Federation, Western Growers Association and the Western Peanut Growers Association.
Farm Bill Now has an interactive website at www.farmbillnow.com, where farmers and consumers may connect to members of Congress and show their support for a new five-year farm bill. The coalition also reports that on Wednesday morning, Sept. 12, representatives of many of the groups will gather on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol to encourage Congress to pass the bill before programs expire at the end of the month.
Pettus L. Read is editor of Tennessee Home & Farm magazine and Tennessee Farm Bureau News. He may be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com