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Farm bill advances out of Committee but faces a difficult road ahead

While many ag groups are optimistic about the farm bill’s advancement out of committee, its future remains uncertain.

American Farm Bureau Federation executive vice president Joby Young says the biggest challenge for the farm bill is the calendar. “At this point, you’re looking at only so many legislative days for Congress to work on legislation like the farm bill,” he says.  “That’s one piece of it. The other piece is that as every day goes by, some of these other big issues that Congress wanted to wrestle with are getting closer.”

AUDIO: Joby Young, American Farm Bureau Federation

Mike Stranz with the National Farmers Union says passing out of committee was a good first step for the farm bill. “But, the bill needs to move to the middle,” he says. Stranz says that means shedding some of the proposed cuts to the nutrition programs. “Farmers and ranchers, we want to make sure people are fed,” he says.  “To cut from nutrition programs is the wrong direction. We need to make sure that those are strong and can continue to provide the level of support that people in need have access to healthy food.”

AUDIO: Mike Stranz, National Farmers Union

The bill doubles the funding for the Market Access Program, and Foreign Market Development programs, and Josh Gackle, president of the American Soybean Association, says that’s crucial for farmers.  “Over half of what we sell as U.S. soybean producers goes overseas,” he says. “MAP and FMD have not been increased over the past several years. It’s been a stagnant level, and the demand is there to increase that and to find new markets and new partners.”

He tells Brownfield he’s optimistic a farm bill can still get finished this year. “It gets a little bit more difficult the further you get into the summer and into closer to the election, it just becomes more political,” he says. “So, I’m hopeful that this early step from the House Ag Committee and from Chairman Thompson will start the conversation.”

AUDIO: Josh Gackle, American Soybean Association

The bill includes protections for federal crop insurance, it strengthens the producer safety net, supports voluntary conservation programs, and would allow for a voluntary base acre update — some of the top priorities of commodity groups.

The farm bill isn’t expected to see floor time until later in the year.

  • Nutrition programs feed those with the greatest need. Nutrition programs are a small fraction of the total federal budget; reducing or eliminating these programs doesn’t even make a dent in the total federal spending.
    Nutrition programs should expand, not shrink. It’s better for all of us. Keep the nutrition programs in place and fully funded.

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