By Teresa Welsh |
The short answer to the question of whether Congress should pass a farm bill is, "Absolutely." Do not let the name of the bill fool you. It's true that the impact of the bill is deeply felt by farmers and rural America, but its impact and scope affects every American. It's a jobs bill. A food bill. A conservation bill. A research bill. An energy bill. A trade bill.
The U.S. Senate took swift action earlier this year on the bill, as did the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture, and we now need House leadership to bring the bill to the floor so that it can be passed and signed into law before the 2008 farm bill's Sept. 30, 2012 expiration date. There has been more than enough time and opportunity for the full House to take up the bill. In the ramp up to the November 6 elections, it seems fairly obvious that this bill is at the mercy of the political silly season. While representatives play a veritable game of hot potato with the farm bill, the livelihoods of family farmers, ranchers, and every American are in jeopardy.
As the drought continues to wreak havoc across the nation, our farmers and livestock producers are looking for relief and certainty. A rough harvest and barren pastures lie ahead for our farmers and ranchers; further delays in signing this critical piece of legislation could have a devastating impact on the U.S. agriculture industry.
Most of the farm spending is for vital nutrition assistance programs for the underprivileged, such as food stamps—the SNAP program. Some fiscal conservatives are demanding deep cuts in SNAP. Well, 92 percent of those receiving SNAP payments fall into one of the four following categories: senior citizens living only on Social Security, people with disabilities, children, and working parents. In this economy, which of these four groups do we as a country decide that we do not want to help?
Leaders of both agriculture committees have indicated their willingness to conference the farm bill so that a final bill can be passed before the end of the fiscal year. The biggest question now is: What is the House leadership waiting for?
It is time that Congress buckle down and do its job so that America's family farmers and ranchers can continue to produce the safest, most abundant, most affordable food supply in the world.
About Roger Johnson President of the National Farmers Union
Melissa Boteach Director of the Poverty and Prosperity Program for Center for American Progress
Jim Weill President of the Food Research and Action Center
Leonard Boswell Democratic U.S. Representative from Iowa
Nan Swift Federal Government Affairs Manager at the National Taxpayers Union