"It's been a long year with a lot of missed opportunity and lost jobs in the biodiesel industry. But we're pleased that Congress has finally approved an extension so that we can get production back on track," she said.
Some groups dissatisfied overall
Despite the "take some, leave some" attitudes that many groups adopted regarding the extension or fiscal cliff tie-in, some groups roundly opposed the entire bill.
Calling it a "disaster," the Center for Rural Affairs, a rural advocacy group, chastised the bill for its lack of funding for rural programs such as the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Program.
"The message is clear – despite high market prices, virtually unlimited commodity and crop insurance premium subsidies to mega farms remain uncapped, but beginning farmers and rural communities are left twisting in the wind," said CRA Executive Director Chuck Hassebrook. "And conservation of our precious land and water gets put on hold."
Though milk policy received the lion's share of media attention recently, and many report that it was the final straw that spurred action on the Farm Bill, Jerry Kozak, President of the National Milk Producers Federation, said the outcome wasn't ideal.
"We need to spend the coming months figuring out how to move farm policy forward. The status quo is not an acceptable outcome, either for farmers or taxpayers," He said, adding that his group will resolve to move policy forward by advocating for the Dairy Security Act.
The new measure, which the group championed, provided a voluntary insurance program to milk producers, and a dairy "supply management" program that eliminated direct payments and export subsidies. It was included in the 2012 Farm Bill – but obviously not in the extension.
"The renewal of current programs doesn't offer dairy farmers a meaningful safety net," Kozak warned, vowing to push the proposed policy into the next Congress.
Will nine months be enough?
That next Congress, which convenes at noon on Thursday, will be faced with many remnants of 2012, not just dairy policy. And, at the stroke of noon, the clock begins to tick for new, permanent farm policy.
Overall, despite some hard feelings among farm groups and overall uneasiness, Secretary Vilsack said he looks forward to continuing the push for a five-year bill.
"While I am relieved that the agreement reached prevents a spike in the price of dairy and other commodities, I am disappointed Congress has been unable to pass a multi-year reauthorization of the Food, Farm and Jobs bill to give rural America the long-term certainty they need and deserve," Vilsack said, promising improved safety nets for consumers and expanded economic opportunities for rural America.