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Mr. JOHNSON of South Dakota. Mr. President, I rise today to discuss the urgency that is growing with each passing day for the House to take up and pass the farm bill. Most Senators in this body have a constituency that is being impacted by the worsening drought conditions, which is currently affecting 61 percent of the landmass of the continental United States. I have seen a growing frustration among my colleagues, myself included, with the lack of action on the part of the House of Representatives.
The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012, which is the Senate's version of the farm bill, contains an extension of the critical livestock disaster assistance programs, and would ensure that this assistance would apply to losses experienced this year. The bill also contains a new commodity program which would serve to supplement crop insurance.
Unfortunately, if we do not complete a full reauthorization by the end of September, producers are at risk of not having this assistance available to them. Our disaster assistance programs, which we authorized in the 2008 farm bill, expired on September 30, 2011, and so they will not be available unless the House leadership brings up the farm bill for immediate consideration. We need to move the process forward so that we can get to a conference committee and complete a full reauthorization by the end of September.
Continued unwillingness of the House leadership to bring the farm bill up for consideration puts my producers at risk. The uncertainty of how the House will proceed led me to join last week with Senators Baucus, Tester, and Conrad in introducing standalone legislation to extend the Supplemental Revenue Assistance, SURE, program, the Livestock Indemnity Program, LIP, Livestock Forage Program, LFP, and the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program, ELAP, through the current crop year. While the farm bill that we passed through the Senate last week includes the livestock disaster programs and a new commodity program to supplement crop insurance, the House has not given any indication that it will move the reauthorization process forward. As such, we introduced this standalone disaster assistance bill as another option for ensuring assistance is available for our producers.
There are a lot of things in the House farm bill that I do not like, but that is why we have a process in place to work out differences between the House and Senate versions. Ideally, the House should just bring up and pass the Senate bill, which passed last month with wide bipartisan support, so we can give our producers some certainty and the assistance they need.
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