More than 250 groups rally behind permanent law, nutrition title in farm bill

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Oct. 29, 2013 - National and state farm organizations may disagree on many specific parts of a new farm bill, but over 250 of them sent a unified letter to Capitol Hill today in support of passing a new five-year bill while leaving the current permanent law provisions intact and preserving a five-year authorization for all programs, including the nutrition title.

The letter was signed by the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union, the American Soybean Association, the National Corn Growers Association, the National Association of Wheat Growers, the National Association of Conservation Districts, Ducks Unlimited and dozens of other organizations representing farmers and ranchers, conservation, rural development, finance, forestry, energy, trade and crop insurance companies.

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Missing from the list were several other national organizations, including the National Cotton Council, USA Rice Federation, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, and the National Pork Producers Council.

With just one day before House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., is scheduled to kick off the first official farm bill conference session, the groups sent a strong signal that they prefer Senate language which would preserve the decades-old provisions, known as “permanent law” that has long prompted lawmakers to advance or extend farm bills.

Even though those provisions would not have much impact until Jan. 1 of 2014, some news outlets are already warning about the potential for skyrocketing milk prices - if no new farm bill is enacted.

“For decades, the threat of reinstatement of the long-outdated policies of the 1938 and 1949 acts have served as strong motivation for Congress to enact new farm bills,” said the letter. “Repealing those acts and making the 2013 farm bill commodity title permanent law could make it difficult to generate sufficient political pressure to adjust the commodity safety net provisions should conditions in production agriculture change.”

The groups said they are also concerned that if Title I of the 2013 farm bill were made permanent, other important farm and rural programs covered in other titles would risk not being reauthorized if the bill expires after five years. 

“If this should occur and we revert to permanent law, then programs covering conservation, forestry, research, energy, rural development, horticulture, trade, etc., could be left to the will of the appropriations process, likely with limited funding and little opportunity to update or adjust to meet changing needs in agriculture and rural communities,” said the letter.

The groups also urged lawmakers “to move forward on a unified farm bill that continues the ‘marriage' between the nutrition and farm communities and preserves a five-year authorization for all programs. The House version of the farm bill would authorize the nutrition title for only three years.

“We also fear that a farm bill without a meaningful nutrition title will make it difficult, if not impossible, for the House and Senate to reach a bipartisan agreement on a final version that can be signed by the president,” continued the letter. 

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