Despite pressure from farmers and farm advocacy organizations and despite both the House and Senate passing competing versions of the farm bill, it is increasingly unlikely that a new set of vital farm legislation will make it through both houses, once again leaving farmers in the lurch this upcoming growing season.
For the past several years, farmers have been desperately pressuring their senators and representatives to take action on the farm bill. Despite attending local town hall meetings, writing letters, sending swarms of lobbyists to Washington, and holding public rallies on the steps of the Capitol, farmers appear unable to break through entrenched partisan gridlock.
On the surface, the congressional progress on the farm bill this year looks promising. Unlike last year, when the House of Representatives refused to allow the bill onto the floor for a vote, both chambers of Congress have passed versions of the bill.
The problem, however, is that the House bill is almost certain to die in the Senate. House Republicans, unable to placate enough of their own fiscal conservatives to overcome intense opposition from Democrats, passed a farm bill that divorces food stamps and nutritional subsidies from farm legislation, a move that has been criticized by some farmers and will almost certainly be rejected by Senate Democrats.
Some Senators also suspect that the House is fundamentally unwilling to negotiate on their version of the farm bill. Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, for example, has been critical of the House’s reluctance to appoint a conference committee. “It’s time to stop kicking the can down the road and leaving rural America and 16 million jobs hanging in uncertainty,” Stabenow said, about the lack of progress on the bill. “The Senate has agreed to go to conference and appointed conferees, and whenever the House decides to do the same we can move forward and finish the farm bill.”
The current farm bill extension expires on September 30.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer