Farm bill pushed to one-year extension
By Ryan Carpe
DARKE COUNTY — The U.S. House and Senate announced a short-term farm bill extension on Dec. 29 which would continue the active polices of the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 and halt the imminent threat of accelerated dairy prices.
In a statement to CNN, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow said the short-term farm bill extension “also prevents eventual damage to our entire agriculture economy.”
Despite the agreement, house leaders have not yet agreed to put the bill on the floor. In addition to the one-year extension, the House GOP is also considering a one-month extension bill and another that would extend existing dairy policy that expires Jan. 1.
The threat of milk nearly doubling in price at around $7 caused legislators from both sides of the aisle to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.
Ohio remains a chief manufacturer in the dairy industry, and farmers expect any changes to the bill could have a large impact on the state’s agricultural polices.
According to statistics provided by the Ohio Department of Agriculture for 2010, Ohio produced 5,240,000 pounds of milk, ranking the state 11th in milk production. And nearly 12 percent of all Ohio agricultural commodities consist of dairy products.
In 2012, Darke County ranked 7th in the state for milk production with an estimated 8,000 dairy cows in the area.
While the extension came just in the nick of time, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in an earlier interview with CNN that he was not pleased with the process.
“It is unconscionable that we don’t have a farm bill. This is just historic. You have every single major commodity group and farm group in the country united in the message to get this work done, yet Congress doesn’t get it done,” he said. “You can’t point to a time when Congress has been this reluctant to pass farm legislation.”
The farm bill is the federal government’s primary agricultural policy and legislative tool, and Vilsack highlighted its importance for rural community members.
“When you consider what rural America does, it provides most of the food, a lot of the water, almost all of the energy and fuel, as well as many, many jobs connected to what happens in rural areas, there should be a greater appreciate for what takes place in rural America and a greater concern on the part of all of us to make sure rural America is healthy and prosperous,” he said.
The 2008 farm bill has far-reaching consequences for every agricultural state, as it deals with conservation, rural development, agricultural research, nutrition programs and other aspects.
Vilsack warned as early as October that if there was not an extension of the existing bill or a new bill on Jan. 1 or shortly thereafter, permanent 1949 agricultural law would go back into place, which would drive up the prices of dairy products along with other farming goods.
In the October statement, Vilsack said that letting the 2008 Farm Bill expire would leave the “USDA with far fewer tools to help strengthen American agriculture and grow a rural economy that supports 1 in 12 American jobs.”
Vilsack continued building on the importance of the bill by saying “Without action by the House of Representatives on a multi-year Food, Farm and Jobs bill, rural communities are today being asked to shoulder additional burdens and additional uncertainty in a tough time.”
But the short-term extension doesn’t come without a cost.
According to the Congressional Budget Office in a report issued on Dec. 28, a one-year extension of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 could cause more than $1 billion dollars in changes to direct spending.
Ryan Carpe is a staff writer at The Daily Advocate in Greenville.