Members of Congress are returning to their districts and constituents today for August recess without a clear path for passing a five-year farm bill before the current law expires on Sept. 30.
The recess is scheduled to run five weeks, encompassing both major party conventions and allowing members to spend significant time in their districts prior to upcoming elections.
The Senate completed its farm bill work on June 21, and the House Agriculture Committee finalized its version of a 2012 farm and food policy proposal in the early hours of July 12.
House Leadership has declined to announce a timeline for taking up that bill, which is controversial even within the Republican caucus. An attempt to push off the issue with a one-year extension of existing farm law was rebuffed this week in the House, leaving the full chamber having passed no legislation that could be formally conferenced with the Senate-passed bill.
It is widely expected farm bill negotiations will continue throughout the August recess, and NAWG staff and grower-leaders will remain engaged with other commodity groups and Hill leaders throughout the summer work period.
NAWG also strongly encourages wheat farmers to meet with their House members and Senators during the recess and urge them to press for completion of a five-year farm bill in September.
The reasons for a long-term law abound:
• A new farm bill will last for five years, providing a degree of certainty for farm operators, who make crop rotation, land and capital decisions on multi-year timeframes.
• A new farm bill would include disaster assistance programs for livestock and specialty crop producers, which are currently unauthorized and unfunded.
• A new farm bill would incorporate significant reforms to farm support programs, which were called for by many in the farming community and the general public, and which are essential to continuing support for agriculture as a secure base for the nation’s economy.
• A new farm bill would provide at least $23 billion in spending cuts, reducing the overall federal deficit.
• A new farm bill in September would solidify policy before any cuts are made as part of a year-end tax extender package or through sequestration early in 2013.
• A long-term bill is more efficient for USDA to implement, which saves tax dollars and provides better service to program users.