With Congress finally taking action on the 2012 Farm Bill, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is urging lawmakers to reach across party lines and pass a farm bill as quickly as possible (or risk slowing down the economic recovery in rural America).
Vilsack’s comments come at an uncertain time in the farm bill process. The Senate version of the bill, still controversial among Southern senators who worry about agricultural safety nets for regional crops, has passed out of the Senate Agriculture Committee and is now headed for a vote on the Senate floor. In the House, proposed agricultural spending cuts could derail the reconciliation process, making it difficult or impossible to harmonize a final bill between the two legislative bodies.
While these debates in Washington are raging, the rural economy is quietly recovering from the larger economic crash in 2008. Thanks to high crop prices and high land value, farm incomes are at all time highs. In addition, rural production is playing a larger and larger role in American international trade. Last year alone farmers exported over $136 billion of agricultural products.
Political squabbles in Washington over the size and scope of the farm bill could threaten that prosperity, Vilsack warned. “If it does not get done then we are left without programs to support farmers and ranchers, and we create a great deal of uncertainty, which no doubt will impact and effect decisions throughout the supply chain that will compromise the enormous progress we’ve seen recently,” he stated in a recent interview.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer