In a press conference earlier this week, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack warned that farmers needed more aid that the Department of Agriculture could provide and prodded Congress to pass a new disaster aid law.
The drought that is currently taxing the USDA’s resources is one of the worst in recent memory. With more than two-thirds of the country affected in some way and with more than one-third of the country experiencing severe to extreme drought conditions, this particular dry spell could result in enormous damage to the farm sector.
Vilsack used the drought to reiterate the importance of passing a new farm bill immediately, rather than passing a temporary extension. “The president has instructed us to do everything we can to help. Our tools are going to be used, but they’re limited,” Vilsack told reporters. “We need quick passage of the farm bill by the House of Representatives.”
The Senate passed a version of the farm bill earlier this summer. The House Agriculture Committee passed a draft of the farm bill, but House leadership has not put the final draft on the legislative agenda.
Vilsack also criticized the House’s attempt to pass a drought relief bill before they left for their August recess. The bill, Vilsack said, was only an effort to provide political cover for rural representatives. “The House passed, at the last minute, a piece of legislation which even many members acknowledge is more about politics than policy,” he said.
The only way to empower the USDA and give the agency the flexibility to deal with natural disasters like the current drought would be to authorize a new farm bill, Vilsack said.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer