In early January, thousands of farmers and ranchers from Hawaii, California, North Dakota, the Carolinas, and everywhere in between boarded planes, trains and buses to make the trip to the American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting in New Orleans.
The state’s agricultural community gladly welcomed our colleagues, who produce just about everything everyday citizens put in, or wear on, their bodies.
These growers came from vastly different places with vastly different weather conditions and farming challenges, but regardless of their home or their farming situation, virtually everyone spoke in unison about the importance of completing work on the 2007 farm bill.
The Farm Bureau convention halls and nearby coffee shops were abuzz with farm policy discussions. “When will Congress give us a new farm bill?” “Would the President really veto such an important bill?” “Why are some lawmakers still talking about a short-term extension of an old, outdated law?”
As lawmakers return to Capitol Hill, let’s hope they listen to the unified message coming from Bayou Country. If they pay attention to the comments coming from this important meeting, legislators will realize that the men and women who put food on our tables and clothes on our backs want them to make reconciling differences between the House and Senate farm bills a top priority.
The House and Senate farm bills are similar and have both won accolades from numerous industries, not just agriculture. While not perfect, the House and Senate farm bills strike a delicate balance between farm, nutrition, conservation, and energy development priorities that have brought the nation’s agricultural community together.
If anyone could find fault in the bills, it would be farmers, which were the only group with an interest in the farm bill not to get a funding increase. In fact, farm programs saw significant budget cuts to pave the way for needed farm program reforms and to free up additional dollars for non-farm interests.
However, the ag community has rallied behind both bills and are making it their top priority to have a new law in place before Spring.
Farmers from across America have asked Congress to remain focused on completing the task of passing a long-term farm bill, telling political leaders that it would be a mistake to throw away all the hard work that’s been done on the farm bill by passing a one or two year extension of the expiring 2002 farm bill.
As the nation’s farmers and ranchers return home from the Big Easy, many will continue the difficult task of business planning for the upcoming year and asking their local banks for substantial operating loans. These producers, and their bankers, need the long-term certainty of an adequate safety net.
They need Congress to pass a unified five-year farm bill based on the House and Senate versions. Then they need the President to make it law.
Let’s hope the voice of reason wins out soon and people stop playing politics with the country’s food security and the millions of jobs dependent on a vibrant agricultural industry.
If the wheels of government grind to a halt, next year’s Farm Bureau convention halls could be a lot emptier.
About the Authors:
|Ronnie Anderson – President
Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation
|Jim Simon – General Manager
American Sugar Cane League
|George LaCour, Jr. – President
Louisiana Cotton Producers Association
|Fred Zaunbrecher – President
Louisiana Rice Growers Association
|Mark Fields – President
Louisiana Sweet Potato Association
|Charles Canatella – President
Louisiana Soybean Association
|Jackie Loewer – Chairman
Louisiana Rice Producers Group