Vilsack adds, "On July 2 a total of 530 organizations, including all major farm organizations, all major conservation groups, all renewable energy groups and many other organizations sent a letter to U.S. House leaders, urging them to pass the new farm bill as a five-year bill containing comprehensive farm, food and jobs provisions."
Will there be movement? What can be done to nudge things along and get Congress to pass a new farm bill?
"There has to be movement," says Vilsack. "Our farmers and ranchers need certainty so they can plan ahead. Livestock producers need a disaster assistance program in the event they need help. Dairy producers need better predictability in the marketplace. Research universities need additional support to help leverage scarce research dollars. Our renewable energy industry in the U.S. needs support that the farm bill offers."
Vilsack adds, "What's happened in the House is unfortunate. It's the first time in history that the U.S. House has voted down a farm bill. I refer to it as a food, farm and jobs bill because it's all tied together. Yesterday those 530 organizations sent that letter to U.S. House leaders encouraging two things: 1) Get a farm bill passed and remove the onerous amendments that many people didn't like and get the bill back to where the House can work out differences with the Senate; 2) Do not split the farm programs from the nutrition programs. We need one bill, not two. If you split the bill it'll be the death knell of farm programs."
Many organizations signed letter sent to U.S. House leaders, urging passage of new 5-year farm legislation
These are 530 organizations, from American Farm Bureau to conservation to renewable energy groups, and other associations representing a wide array of rural interests. "Congress really needs to get a new farm bill passed," states Vilsack. "This, along with immigration reform, for agriculture are two of the most important considerations this year in Congress."
Vilsack says the U.S. needs immigration reform "because we don't have enough hands to get the work done in the U.S. without immigrant labor. We need labor-intensive crops such as vegetables and fruits that are being grown on a large scale commercially, to be picked and harvested on time. Some of these large commercial farms are trying to make a decision whether or not they are going to plant fruits and vegetables in the U.S. anymore. We already have some migration of production to other countries."
"This is a serious time for agriculture, a serious time for rural America," emphasizes Vilsack.
Farmers need to know what programs they can count on for a financial safety net, to help plan agricultural production
Iowa Governor Branstad stood beside Vilsack at the Iowa Statehouse in Des Moines on July 3. "Farm policy is important to all of Iowa," said Branstad. "We are very appreciative of the fact that we've had good crop prices for the last couple of years. But 2013 has been a very difficult year because of excessive rain, and we had a drought in 2012. Even so, farmers found a way to get the crop in the ground this year. Now Congress needs to come together and pass a farm bill to give farmers some predictability and assurance that they do have a financial safety net in case help is needed."