By Representatives Kristi Noem and Peter Welch
Members of Congress are back in Washington this week after a month in their districts, and we are hoping they have come back with a renewed commitment to getting a farm bill done.
We fought hard to get a farm bill done before August. Unfortunately the clock ran out and members of Congress returned home to find drought-stricken crops and displeased farmers looking for leadership from Washington. As Congress returns to Washington, we will continue the rallying cry for a farm bill now.
We don't have much time. This drought has ravaged corn crops, damaged soy beans and caused the price of feed to skyrocket, hurting our nation's dairy and livestock farmers. The current farm bill expires at the end of this month, and each day we don't have a new bill is another day of uncertainty for farmers and ranchers who are already struggling through the worst drought in half a century.
When it comes to a farm bill, too few in Washington really understand just how far-reaching an impact this important legislation has on America. The legislation not only sets farm insurance policies, conserves agricultural land and provides nutrition programs for millions of Americans, it affects food supply and food prices for every American.
American farmers feed the world, and this job doesn't come without massive risk. It takes just one lightning strike, one flood or a drought like the one we are experiencing to wipe out an entire crop and a family's entire investment. In fact, some of America's major farm states are seeing their economies sputter as a result of the current drought and uncertainty about government. The Mid-America Business Conditions Index, the lead economic index for nine Midwest and Plains states, fell below growth neutral for July and August.
Disasters like the current drought don't stay confined to certain states: they spread across the country in the form of a more limited food supply and higher prices at the grocery store. We're already seeing food prices go up. The World Bank recently reported that food prices went up 10 percent from June to July. It doesn't matter where your family lives -- in South Dakota, Vermont or California -- there are not a lot of Americans who can afford to spend more at the grocery store.
We recognize that a farm bill can't prevent a drought, and we applaud the Department of Agriculture for its efforts to provide disaster assistance to drought-stricken states. But the certainty a farm bill provides for rural America is the single best drought assistance we can offer. Our farmers and ranchers risk their livelihoods to feed America, and they deserve a risk management system and a farm bill they can rely on.
The bottom line is that getting a farm bill done is critical to all Americans. That's the message we are repeating to our colleagues in Congress. We will continue to fight for a farm bill now.