Farm groups step up support of new Farm Bill

usdaThe American Farm Bureau Federation has joined 15 other agriculture organizations urging House and Senate agriculture leaders to complete the federal Farm Bill by the end of the year.

The groups said the financial security of America’s farmers and ranchers is in jeopardy if the Farm Bill is not passed. The 2014 farm bill expired Sept. 30.

“Farmers are already attempting to plan for 2019 crops and beyond,” noted Wilmer Stoneman, director of Agriculture, Development and Innovation for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “Immediate passage of the Farm Bill is critical to allow clarity in those plans. Without it, they are flying blind into an already-uncertain market and future.”

Both the House and the Senate have previously passed versions of the legislation. Lawmakers are now working to draft a single bill for Congress to approve and send to President Trump for his signature.

“Conditions for producers across the country are daunting, the groups said in a letter to key House and Senate agriculture committee members. “Low prices, uncertain market opportunities and the current weather challenges are all weighing heavily on the minds of our respective members.”

Updated about every five years, the federal Farm Bill addresses agriculture and other affairs under the authority of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Since 1933, farm bills have covered commodity programs, trade, conservation, ag research and food and nutrition programs.

Three quarters of the total Farm Bill budget is devoted to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and other direct food assistance initiatives, Stoneman explained. “Everyone relies on agriculture, so everyone benefits.”

Part of the other quarter of the Farm Bill budget offers risk management support for farmers by providing them the option to purchase insurance to cover losses from extreme weather, pests or disease.

“Farmers are at the mercy of Mother Nature and fluctuating market prices,” Stoneman noted. “Sometimes they need a little help to keep producing our food supply. That’s why it’s so important that Congress pass a farm bill before year’s end.”

He added that the Farm Bill “helps ensure a safe, affordable and abundant food supply by promoting food security through market competition, quality assurance and trade. The variety and quantity of high-quality foods available to the American consumer is due in part to federal farm policies contained within the Farm Bill.”

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