Farmers and ranchers in Nebraska and nationwide should not accept another one-year extension of the Farm Bill, according to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
Congress was unable to pass a new Farm Bill last year and the legislation’s current one-year extension is set to expire September 30th.
“Honestly, an extension removes an impetus for getting a Farm Bill done and the challenge and the risk of not getting it done this year is that you’re not likely to get it done in an election year, as we saw in 2012,” Vilsack says. “If you don’t get it done in election year then you have a new congress that begins in 2015 and you start the process over again and the chances of getting it done in the latter part of the second term of a president (are) equally problematic, so if we don’t get it done now, the chances are that we won’t get it done.”
The U.S. Senate has passed its own version of the Farm Bill, but the House split the bill in two and has only passed one part. Vilsack says he’s still not clear on what path the House intends to take.
“I’m not sure whether what they’ve done up to now is for real or for show,” Vilsack says.
House leaders have said they’re not ready yet to begin negotiating with senators to find a compromise until the other half of the Farm Bill — the part that deals with federal food and nutrition programs — passes the House.
“It does raise the concern that what’s happened up to this point is not necessarily going to lead to a Farm Bill and I think time’s running out to get it done by September 30th,” Vilsack says.
Without a new, five-year Farm Bill, Vilsack says there’s no disaster assistance for livestock producers, no assistance for beginning farmers, no reform of commodity programs and “no savings to speak of” for taxpayers.
Vilsack spoke Monday in Ames, Iowa, at the Iowa Farm Bureau’s annual Economic Summit.