Opposition to one-year farm bill extension continues to mount

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, July 30, 2012 - Eager to demonstrate that they can address mounting crop and livestock disaster concerns before the August recess, GOP leaders are now learning that a one-year extension of the current farm bill may be creating more problems than opportunities. They don't have enough GOP votes to support passage and now, several Democrats are unwilling to lend a hand.

In the meantime, more and more farm organizations are lining up to oppose the measure. Both the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and the National Farmers Union (NFU), two of the nation's largest farm organizations, said they would oppose a one-year extension.

“A one-year extension offers our farm and ranch families nothing in the way of long-term policy certainty,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman in a statement on Monday. “Farmers and ranchers always face decisions that carry very serious financial ramifications, such as planting a crop, buying land or building a herd, and we need clear and confident signals from our lawmakers.”

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NFU President Roger Johnson said his organization would support an extension only if the next step is to conference a comprehensive five-year farm bill before the Sept. 30 expiration date.

 

“An extension that ignores the goal of a five-year bill merely kicks the can down the road, as we are faced with uncertainty about next year's budget. A one-year extension would also necessitate starting the farm bill drafting process over in the new Congress in January. House leadership needs to stop playing political games and show it values rural America, and pass a farm bill now,” he said in a statement.

 

American Soybean Association First Vice President Danny Murphy also offered concerns about a one-year extension, but indicated a willingness to support moving the process forward.

 

“ASA understands that a one-year extension of the 2008 Farm Bill may be all that can pass the House before it adjourns this week. We support moving the farm bill process forward, so that a Conference can be convened in September, when Congress returns. ASA supports a one-year extension provided there are assurances that a new five-year bill can be negotiated at that time.”

 

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), which has long-advocated for significant dairy industry reforms known as the Dairy Security Act in a new five-year farm bill, expressed strong opposition to the extension.

“The current safety net for dairy farmers is not sufficient in dealing with scenarios like we are currently facing from high feed costs associated with the ongoing drought,” said Jerry Kozak, President and CEO of NMPF. “If we are going to be serious about providing better protection for the nation's dairy farmers while at the same time providing taxpayer savings from current programs, then we should pass a new farm bill which includes the DSA, which was included in both the Senate-passed farm bill and the farm bill recently passed out of the House Agriculture Committee.

“Under the proposed extension, the Milk Income Loss Contract Program (MILC) would not pay out for the remainder of 2012 or for 2013 while the nation's dairy farmers are experiencing razor-thin margins. The proposed 2008 farm bill extension does nothing to ensure dairy farmers and their bankers that they will have any safety net to deal with the present and future periods of tight margins and extreme volatility.

In a letter to Speaker John Boehner yesterday, a coalition of conservation and wildlife groups also voiced their strong opposition to the conservation cuts that would be used to fund a one-year extension and to the overall strategy. The groups include the: American Farmland Trust, Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, Ducks Unlimited, Environmental Defense Fund, Land Trust Alliance, National Association of Conservation Districts, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, National Wildlife Federation, Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, The Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership

“We are writing on behalf of our millions of members to convey our strong and unified disapproval of the way in which the House is addressing re-authorization of the Farm Bill and to urge that you redesign your strategy to embrace an approach that will conclude a comprehensive reauthorization this year,” they wrote. For a copy of the letter, click:

http://www.agri-pulse.com/uploaded/Farm_Bill_Letter_to_Boehner_07312012.pdf

The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance called an extension of current law a missed opportunity” to advance many of the reforms and enhancements they sought in a new five-year farm bill.

“We are concerned that a one-year extension falls short of that goal and hinders access to key programs for our producers directly related to research, value-added producer grants, and important programs that enhance domestic production,” the Alliance said in a statement.

National Corn Growers Association President Garry Niemeyer says an extension of current law fails to provide the needed level of certainty - adding that NCGA advocates reforming programs into more efficient farm policy that will be responsive to taxpayers.

 

“It is important to get to conference and pass a bill before the current law expires September 30.  Continuing outdated farm policies will negatively impact agriculture, the federal budget, consumers and the economy,” Niemeyer explained.

 

National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) President Erik Younggren says his “Association and its farmer-leaders do not support a short-term extension of the 2008 Farm Bill by itself. A one-year extension would create even more uncertainly in a political, agronomic and economic climate that is already uncertain enough.

“As it is, next year's winter wheat crop will be in the ground before any farm policy legislation is able to go to the President's desk this year. We appreciate the continued efforts of our farm leaders who are working to achieve a five-year bill and encourage Members of the House to do what they can, through whatever process possible, to give our nation's growers long-term farm policy certainty this year.”

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas met with ranking member Collin Peterson, as well as Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow and ranking member Pat Roberts this morning, but it's not clear whether any firm decisions were made on a path forward - if and when a one-year extension might be approved in the full U.S. House of Representatives.

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