Congress Fails Farm Programs, Farmers

The U.S. Congress spent approximately 10 days in session during the months of August and September combined, and will now be in "recess" again until after the November elections. Not surprisingly, they didn't get a whole lot done during that limited time. Their fails include not passing a new farm bill - the legislation responsible for directing and funding many farm programs, and upon which many farmers depend. Despite the fact that the Senate has passed their version of the bill early this summer, and the House Ag. Committee passed a version out for a floor vote back in July, House leadership failed to bring the legislation to the floor for a vote during the limited time they were not in (at) "recess". So while they weren't at home playing political "kickball" (a popular game during recess when I was a kid), they made an important decision to let the current farm bill expire (it will do so on September 30th) leaving many federal farm programs unfunded. Instead of passing crucial legislation, Congress is simply "taking it's ball and going home".

The House and Senate both passed a “continuing resolution” to keep the government funded for the next 6 months, but once the farm bill expires, mandatory funding form many programs will expire along with it. Among those: beginning farmer programs like the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), Conservation Stewardship Program funding that would allow USDA to abide by the 2008 Farm Bill mandate to enroll 12.8 million acres in the program in 2013.

In a broken Congress filled with empty promises, leaders have chosen to spend 5/6th of their time in August and September kissing babies, and have “kissed goodbye” to new grants including the conservation land retirement and easement programs, specialty crop and nutrition programs, and have indefinitely put off renewal of mandatory funding for many small and beginning farmer support programs.

Perhaps we will see action during the “lame duck” sessions between “recesses” after the election, most likely in the form of a temporary extension of the 2008 farm bill. But even if this were to happen, it unlikely to extend temporarily funding for vital farm programs whose funding expires with the bill (on Sept. 30th).

If you would like to express your support for beginning farmers, please take a minute to sign a petition urging lawmakers to support the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) at http://www.youngfarmers.org/save-the-bfrdp. BFRDP has funded 145 beginning farmer training and advocacy programs and projects since 2008. The program is one of the few success stories in federal efforts to promote beginning farmer entry.

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