The 2012 Farm Bill currently being debated by the Senate is about more than farming and agricultural production, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said earlier this week. The wide range of the bill makes it vitally important that it is passed as soon as possible.
After months of debate and delay, the farm bill has finally passed the Senate Agriculture Committee and is facing a full debate on the Senate floor. While the bill is still a long way away from final passage, Senator Debbie Stabenow is hopeful that a final vote could be held by July.
The anxiety over the fate of the bill reflects its broad nature. Colloquially known of the farm bill, the full title of the omnibus legislation is the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012, which, as Vilsack stated in an interview earlier this week, reflects the full scope of the bill.
Only about 15 percent of the bill deals specifically with farm programs and agricultural production. The bill contains health provisions, environmental legislation, conservation requirements, and nutritional supplements, including the widely used Food Stamps program (which itself constitutes nearly 80 percent of the bill).
In addition, even farm legislation influences more than just the farm community. Foreign farm aid funding, for example, is directly linked to American shipping interests and the shipping industry. Aid to farmers increases their ability to purchase goods and equipment, directly benefiting manufacturing industries and the service sector.
In light of this broad web of mutual support, Vilsack and many congressional leaders are urging a speedy passage of the farm bill in order to maximize its potential benefit to the overall economy.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer