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15 Dec 2013 - Stop Kicking that Darn Can

My message this week is directed to the members of Congress. Let’s get it done! I am talking about the Farm Bill, the Farm Bill that expired a year ago September 30th.

Congress ‘kicked the can down the road’ and extended the current Farm Bill for one year. September 30, 2013 came and went, still no Farm Bill. Last week, on the day I was in Washington, D.C. visiting with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, the leadership of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees said “We can’t get a Farm Bill done during 2013. We will do it early in 2014.”

This is the statement of Frank Lucas, Republican Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. He said "We have made great progress on the Farm Bill and continue to have productive meetings. There are still some outstanding issues that we are addressing. I am confident we will work through them and finish a Farm Bill in January. Concurrent with our ongoing discussion this week I will file legislation to extend the current Farm Bill through January to allow us to finish our work without the threat that permanent law, dating back to 1948, will be implemented. Having this option on the table is the responsible thing to do in light of our tight deadline.” Before the week ended, the House approved the extension.

But then the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Ag Committee, Senator Debbie Stebbinow said. . . “I will not vote for an extension. I want to get the Farm Bill done.” So once again we are in never-never land. Farmers and ranchers are left not knowing what rules they will be operating under in conservation, crop insurance, export promotion, or other USDA programs next year and beyond. The frustration of Secretary Vilsack was obvious when he pointed out that once the law is passed, then his department must interpret and write the rules, and that adds to the time that producers are operating in a vacuum.

Why do we keep kicking the can down the road? Why can’t we get this done once and for all? What happened to the art of compromise and cooperation in politics? We are long overdue to get a new Farm Bill written so that America’s agricultural producers will know the rules they operate under for the next five years.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.