In a visit to Akeny, Iowa earlier this week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack addressed the needs of the upcoming Farm Bill. He current $284 billion bill expires in September 2012 and Congress is currently beginning the arduous and politically charged process of updating and replacing it.
While the Farm Bill has been reasonably uncontroversial for the past several years, the current fiscal crisis has created significant tension within the agricultural community and could threaten the economic health of the farming sector.
While some parts of the planned Farm Bill, such as the all but guaranteed removal of direct payments for farmers, are not causing a stir, some farmers are worried about potential reductions in conservation budgets, crop insurance programs, and disaster aid.
Vilsack, attempting to address some of these fears, reiterated his support for increased disaster aid. Particularly in the wake of the Texas drought, the flooding along the Mississippi, and the saturation of the Midwest, all of which have caused billions of dollars in damage and lost revenues, Vilsack’s support is welcome to a community which sometimes feels under siege by Congressional budget cutting.
However, some question Vilsack’s ability to shape the upcoming bill. Earlier this year, the Secretary pledged to take a backseat in Farm Bill negotiations, yielding the decision making to a Congress that has spent the past several months slashing agricultural funding.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer