Congress has debated a new five-year Farm Bill for much of the last year, but despite some progress, we have yet to reach a final agreement. When Congress returns to Washington next month, I will continue working with my House colleagues from both parties to pass a responsible, long-term bill.
A workable Farm Bill which builds on the success of crop insurance and livestock assistance programs will provide our farmers and ranchers the certainty they need to maintain our food supply and grow our agriculture economy. The need for certainty is especially true now, with severe drought devastating crops across Nebraska and much of the country.
I have had the opportunity this summer to speak with many Nebraskans about the impact of these conditions on those working on the front lines of agriculture. Producers are looking to Washington to provide the right tools to effectively manage risk in both the short- and long-term.
Much of the delay in passing a Farm Bill is the result of debate over funding for nutrition programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formally known as food stamps. These programs account for approximately 80 percent of the costs of the proposed Farm Bill.
This is not the first time debate on reauthorizing the Farm Bill has been slow. In fact, the last five-year Farm Bill, which was up for reauthorization in 2007, was not signed into law until 2008. While the pace is frustrating to everyone, it is important to use the process to get the best policy possible.
Until the House and Senate come to an agreement on a five-year farm policy, it is important to ensure producers are not left with more short-term uncertainty. While most provisions of the Farm Bill expire September 30, 2012, certain livestock disaster assistance programs expired in 2011. For this reason, the House of Representatives passed the Agriculture Disaster Assistance Act (H.R. 623) which would provide assistance to livestock producers affected by the drought and wildfires devastating farms and ranches across Nebraska.
Unfortunately, the House-passed disaster assistance legislation has yet to be taken up by the Senate; however, producers in all 93 Nebraska counties are eligible for USDA disaster assistance through the Farm Service Agency (FSA). Farmers and ranchers in need should keep detailed records and stay in touch with FSA. Of course, you always can contact my office for assistance or if you need any additional information.
It is important to keep in mind, a new Farm Bill will be in place for at least five years, so we must ensure we get the policy right. When Congress returns from the August District Work Period, I am confident addressing the expiration of the current Farm Bill will be a priority for Members who, like me, have met with producers suffering from the devastation of drought who need certainty. My preference remains a long-term bill, but more importantly we must agree on sustainable public policy. I am hopeful Congress will do its part to give producers the certainty they need to continue feeding our nation and the world.