Congress has yet to pass a new farm bill and Bruce Rohwer, president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association, says there's now a drought of political will in Congress to get that job done. "The 2012 Farm Bill sits wilting away like the crops without rain this summer. Now we see the drought of political will to complete the 2012 Farm Bill," says Rohwer. "This drought does not rely on Mother Nature to reverse so it won't threaten programs, policy and people, just a desire to see the completion of the work nearly done."
Speaker of the House John Boehner has said he would take the farm bill up during the lame duck session "and we need to hold him to that promise," says Rohwer. "We applaud the full Senate and the House Ag Committee for their bipartisan votes and the Obama Administration for calling on the House to complete its work on the five-year farm bill."
Critical programs in the bill can't just be turned on and off; it's a more complex situation
The farm bill has a greater reach than most people realize. "The effect goes well beyond the farm to the whole of Iowa's economy," notes Rohwer. "Titles in the bill are related to conservation, research and rural development, and funding for export programs, such as the Foreign Market Development and the Market Access Program. Agricultural exports are one of the bright spots in the battered U.S. trade balance. That translates not only directly into income, but jobs throughout the distribution chain. Like the rain this summer, critical programs like export promotion can't just be turned on and off like a faucet."
With the short crop the U.S. harvested in 2012 due to drought, "now is when we really need the people and the export promotion programs working with our foreign customers to get through this shortage. There will be a time again when all customers will be essential to our farms and therefore our communities' income."
Congress should have it as a priority to pass a responsible five-year farm bill
Congress should set as one of its priorities the passage of a responsible farm bill yet this year to prevent a lapse in policy and programs, says Rohwer.
Congress has the power to pass a reform minded five-year farm bill -- a bill that includes sound conservation, critical risk management, as well as food and nutrition programs, he adds. "The U.S. Senate and the House Ag Committee and even farmers across the drought area have done their job, now we ask our legislators to do their job; get the farm bill on the House floor for debate and final passage. Kicking the can down the road will not do any of us any good in the long run."
While the continuing resolution passed by Congress in September is funding most farm bill provisions, including the crop insurance program, through the end of March 2013, several programs such as the beginning farmer loan program and trade provisions do need to be reauthorized. Political analysts speculate that federally subsidized crop insurance will be a big target for lawmakers who are looking to cut the federal budget deficit. The National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, American Farm Bureau and other major U.S. farm groups are lobbying hard for a strong crop insurance program to be included in the new 2012 Farm Bill.