I recently wrote an entry about the farm bill currently cooling its heels in the halls of Congress. The ongoing delays in getting this critical legislation passed has prompted a coalition of more than 40 agricultural organizations to join forces in the lobbying effort to get the bill passed. The coalition is called Farm Bill Now and its membership includes organizations representing particular crops, dairy farmers, state and local governments, energy groups, farm co-operatives, financial organizations and other farm associations. The effort is backed by two of the largest farm groups, the National Farmers Union and the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Although the farm bill has a connotation in the popular mind of being concerned only with the nation’s farmers, in reality it is a bill with a very wide scope. Research, environmental protection efforts, food programs for impoverished children, international trade, and employment legislation are all affected by the bill. More than 23 million American jobs are directly or largely involved with the agriculture sector. One of the most important element of the bill in the short run concerns drought relief, as American farmers face one of the worst droughts in modern history. In the long run, the bill is important to the fiscal health of the Federal government, as it contains important spending cuts in the ongoing effort to reduce the budget deficit.
The Farm Bill Now coalition has created a web site (www.farmbillnow.com) to give citizens the chance to send messages of support for the bill to their Congressional delegation. A meeting in late August at the Farm Progress Show in Iowa was the site for a discussion by farmers and farm groups of how to proceed. In addition, on September 12, the group plans a rally on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC to encourage Congress to pass the bill. The current farm bill expires at the end of September, and without action by then many provisions of the old bill will lapse and farmers will face a number of real and serious issues.