Addressing Iowa farmers, bankers and others at the Iowa Farm Bureau's economic summit last week in Ames, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack chastised Congress for failing to put together and pass a reasonable farm bill. He said extension of the current farm bill is not acceptable. "That would be rewarding their failure," he said. "They need to come up with a workable bill."
Without a new farm bill, there are no opportunities to enact reforms in policy or to add new programs or to shift funding between programs as things change in the future, he said. There would be no opportunity to fund research that could lead to improved production or improved conservation and land management practices that will result in better soil conservation and water quality.
Pointing out that conservation and water quality are top priorities for the nation, Vilsack said farmers have made great strides in increasing production while protecting fragile farmland and holding crop nutrients in place on the land. "Farmers and landowners use NRCS programs and technical assistance, programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. These programs, funded at least at the current level, plus additional research and development, will be needed to meet the soil loss and water quality goals we have."
Ag secretary says splitting food stamp and nutrition programs out of the farm bill is a bad idea
Continuation of these and other programs must be included in a comprehensive new farm bill, said Vilsack. It also must include food and nutrition assistance programs. "Splitting food support from farm support is not in the long-term interest of farmers," he emphasized. "Most members of Congress don't understand farming or farmers. While they don't understand the need for commodity supports, they can relate to the need for good nutrition, even for those who can't afford good nutrition on their own."