Crop insurance has been extremely important recently, notes Branstad, with the drought last year and with flooding this year. But there are many aspects to a farm bill that need to be enacted by Congress. "It's a very charged-up and partisan environment in Washington, but we've proved here in Iowa we can work together and get things done legislatively, for the betterment of everyone in our state. Congress needs to make the effort to do that too, on a bi-partisan basis and get it done in a timely way before September 30, when the current farm bill extension expires."
Many other economic considerations are at stake, as programs are needed and would be provided by a new farm bill
Vilsack adds, "Governor Branstad is absolutely right. There are a lot of issues involved in a farm bill and some folks don't realize or give those issues attention. For example, if you're an Iowa State University grad, you should be interested in making sure ag research continues. This farm bill would allow us to leverage public funding and resources and expand research. If you're a livestock producer you need disaster assistance programs. If you're a dairy producer you need a market that's more stable and secure than the one we have today. We've lost nearly 50% of our dairy producers in the U.S. the last 10 years."
If you are interested in soil and water conservation there are a lot of issues and discussion about water quality in Iowa, as there needs to be, says Vilsack. "You want to streamline federal conservation programs, to make them easier to access and use. The new farm bill would allow you to do so. And if you're interested in having a new, bio-based economy for the future and getting the U.S. away from over-reliance on petroleum and oil, which we are doing here in Iowa, you obviously want the programs in the farm bill that will continue supporting the renewable energy effort."
All of this is at stake, says Vilsack. "Another issue is economic development, and jobs for U.S. and Iowa workers. Some companies in Iowa and the U.S. may not think they have a stake in this farm bill. But they do indeed have a significant stake. For example, Brazil is now in a position, because of a cotton trade dispute, to assess $820 million in tariffs on a wide range of U.S. products, including ag products but also things manufactured in the U.S. and Iowa. For example, John Deere facilities in Iowa stand to lose jobs here if Brazil decides to slap significant import tariffs on U.S.-made tractors, cotton pickers and other farm equipment. That would put Iowa and the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage, and cost us jobs. Too much is at stake here. We need to get a farm bill passed in Washington, D.C."