Vilsack sees shrinking opportunity for a farm bill this year

By Sarah Gonzalez

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, Dec. 19, 2012- Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said “there is a very serious risk we might not get a farm bill this year,” during a U.S. Chamber of Commerce forum today.

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“We'll continue to encourage Congress to get this done,” he said, amid back-and-forth discussions between House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders on how to compromise the commodity title of a farm bill. He added that “we've still got time left, let's use it.” 

“I have no doubt the four leaders can garner a farm bill that gets enough votes to get through the House and Senate,” he added, referring to the Chairs and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees. However, he acknowledged that Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, “shows reluctance” in allowing votes on a five-year farm bill during negotiations on tax and spending reform legislation to avert the “fiscal cliff” by the end of the year.

We need to tell the Speaker it's not a one-thousand page bill, it can be easily linked to, and provide savings for, a fiscal cliff package,” he said. 

Regarding the House, Vilsack said, “I think the votes are there” and House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders “just need the encouragement from the Speaker to get it done.”

“If the structure is right and with [House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank] Lucas's leadership, we can make that happen,” Vilsack added. 

Today, Congressmen Adrian Smith (R-NE) and Lee Terry (R-NE) sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) requesting the inclusion of farm policy in any year-end legislative package considered by the House.

“As negotiations to resolve the fiscal cliff continue, I hope farm policy will be included as part of a larger deal,” said Smith.  “While agriculture remains one of the lone bright spots in the economy, farmers and ranchers continue to struggle with severe weather and uncertain public policy.  By responsibly addressing the fiscal cliff and the Farm Bill, Congress can provide certainty to producers and taxpayers as they plan for the coming year.”


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