Although farmers need the certainty of a farm bill safety-net, Congress has yet to reach an agreement. Meanwhile the current farm bill just expired, but members of Congress have a higher priority – a three-week recess in the final campaign sprint to midterm elections.
Michigan Farm Bureau National Legislative Counsel, John Kran encourages farmers to turn that challenge into an opportunity at campaign events in the coming weeks and let their members of Congress know they need to get the job done before the end of the year.
“Bottom line, we need Congress to pass the 2018 Farm Bill when they return in lame duck session,” Kran said. “If they delay the 2018 farm bill vote by simply extending the current 2014 version, we start back at square one on January 1, 2019.”
According to Kran there are roughly 40 “orphan” programs meaning that they don’t have permanent funding. “Technically, they don’t have funding as of September 30 when the current farm bill expired,” he said. Many of those so-called orphaned programs are critical for Michigan agriculture due to our diversity of commodities raised.”
While USDA is working to address the funding gap Kran said there is limited flexibility and time before funds runs out.
“We’re glad to see the four principals, including Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, are planning to meet again in the coming days and remain committed to getting the bill passed, but we need to make sure it is done before the end of the year.”
Andrew Walmsley, American Farm Bureau Federation congressional relations director, agrees adding that commodity programs will continue through at least the current marketing year and crop insurance is permanently authorized and the Farm Bill’s Nutrition programs will continue operating.
“Obviously it is not ideal that we blew past the September 30th deadline without having a new farm bill, but it isn’t necessarily the end of the world,” Walmsley said. “It’s not really until we get to January 1, 2019, where we could start seeing impacts to dairy. So, there’s a lot of work by staff and by the four principals to try to get a farm bill done, in the next few weeks so we can quickly get it back through both chambers of Congress after the midterm elections.”
Walmsley also encourages farmers to help by talking with lawmakers about the need to finish the farm bill while they’re home campaigning in the final weeks leading up to those midterm elections.
“I know its harvest time, but if they (farmers) get an opportunity to see a member of Congress or attend a campaign event, they need to ask the question, ‘What are you doing to help get a farm bill done?’ We need to get a bill done and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t here in the next few weeks,” Walmsley concluded.