The congressional panel that was trying to finish a draft of the Farm Bill missed its deadline over the weekend, raising the question of whether the Farm Bill can be be passed in the House by year’s end. U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says Congress can act quickly “when there’s a will and there’s a way.”
“We have to have a clear indication from Congress that this is going to get done,” Vilsack says. “Obviously there are some who are skeptical about that given the fact that we have already seen one year with inaction.”
A Farm Bill was due to be passed by this time last year, but congress passed a one-year extension. Vilsack says inaction again this year means his agency will begin instituting the federal farm policies of the 1940s — which are far more costly.
“No one wants to do that,” Vilsack says, “and the best and simplest way to avoid it having to be done — at whatever point in time — is to have congress finish its work by the end of the year.”
Congress is now in recess for Thanksgiving. In December, the House will be in session for just two weeks and the Senate for slightly longer before adjourning for the year.
Without passage of a five-year Farm Bill, Vilsack says farmers and ranchers in Nebraska and nationwide are delaying key decisions.
“Doesn’t know how to decide whether to expand, to buy an additional piece of equipment because he or she does not know what the programs are going to be,” Vilsack says. “There is no question that farmers have taken a ‘wait and see’ attitude to further decisions that could help spur not only their own operation, but spur the economy generally.”
According to a report released last week by the White House Council on Economic Advisors, agriculture accounts for nearly five-percent of the Gross Domestic Product and one in 12 jobs in the U.S. are in agriculture.
“A compelling report that makes the argument on a multitude of levels why it’s important for the rest of the country and all of America to see congress finish its work (on the Farm Bill),” Vilsack says.
The chairman of the House Ag Committee emerged from a meeting last Thursday saying anything is possible, but it “will be challenging” for Farm Bill negotiators to wrap up their work and have a bill ready for a vote in the House by December 13th.
Nebraska has the fourth largest agricultural economy in the country, with about 47,200 farms, encompassing nearly 46-million acres of farmland. The state ranks 2nd in the nation for ethanol production, 3rd in corn and cattle, 4th in soybeans and 6th in hogs.