Tara Smith, Director of Congressional Relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, told the Louisiana Farm Bureau convention in New Orleans over the weekend it's not that unusual that Congressional farm bill hearings have already started for the 2012 legislation.
"I think that a lot of folks think it's too early, a lot of folks are exhausted from the last Farm Bill still," Smith said. "But realistically it took us two and a half years to get the 2008 Farm Bill done, so when you consider that maybe it's not too early to start after all."
Smith notes it's already clear the budget environment is one of the biggest constraints moving forward.
"Chairman Peterson has made it clear he is not going to look outside of the farm bill for additional money this year," Smith said. "He thought that was a constraint last year and it caused him a lot of heartburn. We know we are going to face some budget cutback over the course of the next two years, probably before we even start writing the farm bill."
At the same time, Smith says the farm bill isn't just about farmers. There's a long list of people to please including environmental groups, conservation groups, nutrition folks and more.