With just a few days of floor time left in the year, a coalition of 235 ag groups called on Congress this week to pass a new farm bill, while the American Farm Bureau Federation reminded legislators about pending Russia trade approval.
Farm Bill takes center stage
"This legislation is of paramount importance to the diverse, bipartisan constituencies our organizations represent," the coalition wrote in its letter to Reps. John Boehner, R-Ohio, Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Steny Hoyer, D-Md.
"Failure to pass a new five-year farm bill before the year's end will create significant budget uncertainty for the entire agricultural sector, including the rural businesses and lenders whose livelihoods are dependent upon farmers' and livestock producers' economic viability," the groups wrote.
The groups also addressed the ongoing drought – the nation's largest since the 1930s – explaining that historic conditions and "damaging economic effects" cannot be ignored.
Those signing the letter included energy interests such as 25x'25 Alliance and the Ag Energy Coalition; broad ag groups, including the American Farmland Trust and National Farmers Union; and a host of specialty groups, like the U.S. Meat Export Federation and Pheasants Forever.
More than 40 conservation groups wrote a separate letter on Monday to Speaker of the House John Boehner, requesting immediate action on the bill.
"We believe a bill that takes on the best conservation provisions from the Senate-passed and House Committee-passed bills is quite possible to achieve even in the limited amount of time left in this session of Congress," the groups wrote. "The Senate and the House Agriculture Committee clearly agree on the value of the Conservation Title since their versions of the bill are substantially the same and have received strong bi-partisan support."~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
The National Sustainable Agriculture Committee, which signed on to the letter, voiced concern about lack of funding for the five major conservation programs – the Conservation Stewardship Program, Conservation Reserve Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, Grassland Reserve Program and the Chesapeake Bay Conservation Initiative.
Though the Senate has passed their version of the 2012 Farm Bill, the House has yet to bring the legislation to vote. According to the house calendar, just 15 days in session remain before the end of the year.
Russia trade legislation is "critical"
Though the farm bill has received significant attention, the American Farm Bureau on Wednesday placed focus on ensuring the removal of Russia from the Jackson-Vanik amendment, a move that would allow establishment of Permanent Normal Trade Relations with Russia.
Bob Stallman, AFBF president, said in a statement Wednesday that the legislation is critical to ensuring the U.S. receives full benefits of Russia's accession into the World Trade Organization.
"U.S. farmers will have more certain and predictable market access as a result of Russia's commitment not to raise tariffs on any products above the negotiated rates and to apply international food safety standards in a uniform and transparent manner," Stallman said.
AFBF reports that Russian demand has the potential to significantly expand U.S. meat exports, and is forecast to support $1.4 billion in U.S. agricultural exports in 2012.
AFBF joined more than 500 organizations last week signing a letter to Congress reiterating agricultural interest in Russia PNTR.
The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on legislation granting PNTR with Russia on Thursday. No date has been released for potential House floor time on the farm bill.