Every five to seven years the United States Congress passes what is arguably the single most important piece of legislation affecting the nation’s food environment.
The Federal Farm Bill, a massively complex piece of legislation, has almost 700 pages and is the primary agricultural and food policy tool of the federal government.
The Farm Bill affects every American in one way, shape or form.
Beginning in 1973, Farm Bills have included titles on commodity programs, trade, rural development, farm credit, conservation, agricultural research, and food and nutrition programs among others.
Congress is coming perilously close to leaving Washington, D.C. without passing a Farm Bill this year
According to the Minnesota Farmers Union Director of Government Relations, Tom Petersen, it is important that a new five-year Farm Bill be signed into law before Jan. 1, 2013, for a number of important reasons.
Brown County could see the effects of a delay in the Farm Bill passing in major dairy programs, including Milk Income Loss Contracts (MILC) and the Dairy Product Price Support Program (DPPSP), which expires with the end of the 2008 Farm Bill.
If no action is taken on the Farm Bill by Jan. 1, federal dairy policy will revert to 1938 and 1949 law, Petersen explained.
“We would go back to 1938 and 1939 law. Farmers would be paid in a parity-based government backed price of about $38 per hundredweight for milk,” he said. “It would double the price for the farmer, but in the long-run consumers would see a jump in prices which would decrease demand. There are concerns in this area.”
While dairy programs pose potential temporary setbacks for dairy farmers, Petersen explained that 37 programs that were included in the 2008 Farm Bill did not include baseline funding beyond Sept. 30, 2012.
Important programs that currently lay dormant that would affect Brown County include CRP re-enrollments, Wetland Reserve Program (WRP), grasslands reserve program, Rural Energy in America Programs (REAP), Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program, organic research and there is no current disaster protection program in place.
“That’s going to be a problem if the drought persists,” Petersen said.
He explained that many counties across the nation were declared agricultural disaster areas by the U.S. Department of Agriculture at some point in 2012, and 55 percent of the nation’s pasture and rangeland rated in poor to very poor condition.
Page 2 of 2 - Peterson went on to say that hay and other commodities are going to get tight, especially for livestock producers who will need some disaster assistance if the region doesn’t get substantial moisture in 2013.
Petersen sees only temporary setbacks for farmers if Congress does not pass the farm bill before the first of the year, but says an opportunity to make major reforms to farm policy will be lost if no action is taken by Jan. 1.
“Any temporary extension would be a short-sighted, inadequate solution that would leave our rural America crippled by uncertainty,” Petersen added. “If a new Farm Bill is not passed by the end of the year, even deeper effects will be felt by all sectors of agriculture that will jeopardize the long-term viability of farm and conservation programs.”