Farm bill pressure mountsSD senators join in call for inclusion with end-of-year measure.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Almost one-third of the U.S. Senate, including both South Dakota senators, has called for including the farm bill in any end-of-the year legislation.
Sens. Tim Johnson, a Democrat, and John Thune, a Republican, joined with 31 other senators from both parties, mostly from states with major agriculture interests, in signing a letter to Senate leaders that asked for action.
The previous farm bill expired Sept. 30.
There has been growing concern about rising milk and other dairy prices without a new farm bill. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said milk prices could double in early 2013 since regulations setting price supports have expired and decades-old laws will take effect.
The lack of a farm bill could pose other problems as producers prepare for 2013 without guaranteed disaster programs or crop insurance, senators warn.
A farm bill passed the Senate in June but stalled in the House, which has yet to vote on it. The House Agriculture Committee did vote to pass a version of the bill, and Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., voted for it, but Speaker John Boehner has declined to schedule a full vote.
Boehner and other GOP leaders want deeper cuts in food stamps and other programs. All these arguments are being included in the “fiscal cliff” discussions now under way in Washington, D.C.
In their letter, the senators said $23 billion in deficit reduction was included in the Senate-passed farm bill. “The Senate-passed farm bill gives producers long-term certainty and provides necessary assistance to producers affected by this year’s devastating drought,” Johnson said in a release.
“Not only that, but our bill actually reduces the deficit and can help fiscal cliff negotiators meet their goals. The House has shown no interest in considering a farm bill on their own, so we need to find a way for them to act before the end of the year. South Dakota farmers and ranchers deserve the certainty of a five-year farm bill.”
The letter says time is dwindling for action.
“With each passing day, the difficulty of enacting a farm bill before the end of this Congress grows,” it states. “Congress must do the responsible thing and pass a full, five-year reform farm bill. Accordingly, we urge you to consider folding in the Senate’s strong bipartisan bill in any end-of-year package.”