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Congress punts on farm bill

Lawmakers are heading home from Washington, D.C., this week until the November elections have come and gone, leaving on the table a farm bill, the continued stall of which continues to baffle farmers in a year when politics is everywhere.

Earlier this week, Representative Louise Slaughter, a democrat from New York, says she offered an amendment to the House of Representatives Rules Committee to take up the farm bill before the congressional break leading up to the November election. But, the amendment was later voted down as lawmakers began the election break without a decision on the bill.

"Throughout this year, our country has faced unpredictable and extreme weather. These record-breaking conditions have challenged our nation’s farmers, including the hardworking farmers of Western New York," Slaughter said in a blog entry on, a site covering congressional issues in Washington, D.C. "our current farm bill will expire on September 30th with significant consequences throughout our agricultural sector. With expiration of the farm bill, dairy farmers will lose what little safety net they have. Expiration of the farm bill could severely disadvantage American farmers who are competing in a modern global marketplace."

So, what will happen without a farm bill? Without a new bill passed, the law will lapse to policies passed in 1938 and 1949, the "permanent farm bill that deals with price supports and the concept of parity," says Marketing Talk frequent contributor ncil. "That is onerous enough that at least an extension is done."

Elsewhere around the ag industry, response to Congress' lack of action on the farm bill has been tepid at best. Some, like American Soybean Association president Steve Wellman, a farmer from Syracuse, Nebraska, see it as putting politics ahead of service.

“It is a sad statement on the perceived lack of importance of rural America in Washington when a bipartisan bill that provides certainty for farmers, livestock disaster assistance, nutrition programs, crop insurance improvements, conservation of our natural resources and reduces our Nation’s budget deficits is shelved in favor of scoring political points in an election year," Wellman said in an ASA statement this week. "“Members of Congress will now return to their districts to court votes from the same farmers whose calls for Congressional action to enact a new farm bill were ignored. These hard-working, devoted men and women are a constituency as valuable as any other, and we encourage all soybean farmers to voice their concerns with their representatives in the coming weeks.

“When members of Congress return after the election in November, the excuses and the foot-dragging must stop, and the House must dedicate itself to passing a new comprehensive five-year farm bill that provides farmers with the stability, security and certainty they need while doing agriculture’s part to contribute to deficit reduction. Anything less will be another failure by Washington on the part of American farmers," Wellman adds.

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