White House report pushes for farm bill passage this year

By Sarah Gonzalez

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Nov. 21, 2013-While the four principals of the Farm Bill conference committee hold discussions on Capitol Hill today, the Obama Administration released a report emphasizing the benefits of passing a new farm bill before the end of the year.

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“The alternatives to full reauthorization-either delay or reversion to permanent law-would result in continued uncertainty for farmers and rural stakeholders,” notes the report from the White House Rural Council.

During a call with media today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the document lays out the contributions U.S. agriculture and the rural economy make to the rest of the country. He said the report could serve as “additional ammunition” for the conference committee leaders trying to pass a farm bill before the end of the year.

Without any bill, farm policy reverts back to 1949 permanent law. Otherwise, another farm bill extension will cost additional resources in a time when deficit reduction is vitally important, he added.

“With an extension, there comes costs,” Vilsack noted. “You don't get the reforms the bill being considered by the conference committee will provide.”

Vilsack noted that crop insurance will be the lynchpin of the farm safety net included in a farm bill, but the differences regarding complementary farm programs of Title I are among the challenges for the conference committee. However, he agreed the largest battles remain in the Nutrition Title over Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funding, or food stamps.   

“I think it's appropriate for the committee to first work through all the other intricate differences in other titles,” Vilsack said. “The more invested conferees are in these negotiations, the greater chance we actually get a bill.”

He said the White House Rural Council report documents a direct relationship between the agricultural economy and the rest of economy, adding that he hopes conferees can use the information to sway other members of Congress.

“I think Congress is capable of acting quickly,” he said. “They act best and most expeditiously when there's a timeline.”

The Administration highlighted renewable energy, conservation and research programs that must be reauthorized in order to continue.

Because Congress already extended the 2008 farm bill, “some programs have been simply extended, others remain either unfunded, unauthorized, or without enactment of needed reforms,” states the report.

The report highlights several contributions of the agricultural economy, including $140 billion in exports in fiscal year 2013, a new record high since $137 billion in FY2011.

To view the entire report, click here.

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