More than 150 farm and agribusiness organizations are appealing to congressional farm bill negotiators to finish their work quickly.
"Americans must have a five-year farm bill ahead of the September 30 expiration of the Agricultural Act of 2014,” the groups said in a letter Monday to leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture committees. “We urge you to quickly reconcile the bills’ differences and pass a conference report so that it can be enacted into law.”
The letter doesn’t take any positions on any of the major issues that face the House and Senate negotiations, including calls by House Republicans and President Donald Trump for tightening Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program work requirements.
But the letter cites as reasons for finishing the bill both the downturn in the economy and the need for food assistance among low-income Americans.
Farmers “need a strong and predictable safety net that includes important risk management tools such as crop insurance to weather these difficult economic times. They cannot afford a short-term extension,” the letter says.
“Low-income Americans rely on a number of vital nutrition programs authorized through the Farm Bill. While the overall economy has improved and participation has dropped, the need remains significant. We urge the committees to work together to meet the needs of this important population.”
Separately Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., visited a hemp processing facility in his home state in emphasize his interest in getting a new farm bill passed that includes his provisions to legalize and promote the production of industrial hemp nationwide.
His office noted in a tweet that McConnell is “serving as a key negotiator” on the farm bill. McConnell, one of the nine Senate conferees on the bill, has said he wants a final bill ready for votes in the House and Senate shortly after Labor Day.
Much of the 2014 farm bill expires Sept. 30, but crop insurance is permanently authorized and commodity programs generally remain in effect for a commodity's marketing year.