There is a fear that today's "Farm Bill Now" rally, which drew hundreds of people representing virtually every farm organization in the country, was "too little, too late" but Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Hays) told Kansas farm reporters in a press conference following the rally that he thinks has a last-ditch chance to move the legislation forward in the House.
"What needs to happen is for the rally to inspire voters to contact their representatives and tell them how important this legislation is to them," Moran said. "My feeling is that a lot of e-mails and phone calls might make some people rethink their decision."
Moran said he thinks there will be time, if the House acts by Sept. 30, to get legislation through the reconciliation process and to the President before the end of the year.
Moran said many of the recalcitrant House members want to see spending on food stamp and nutrition programs reduced. However, he said, holding the Farm Bill hostage will not achieve that goal.
"My point to these members is that the only way to get these spending reductions is to pass the Farm Bill and introduce the amendments to the conference committee, take the vote on the Legislation and see what the majority of House wants to do."
Moran said failure to pass a bill has severe consequences to agriculture in a year when no disaster programs are in place and the country has been hard-hit by drought.
"Congress made a serious mistake in the last Farm Bill when they passed a five-year bill with a four-year disaster program," he said. "That was a gimmick to bring the total cost of the bill into a target range. But it means disaster programs ended last year and there is no help out there for our livestock producers who don't have the benefit of crop insurance type program."
On the question of a separate disaster package for livestock producers, Moran said the Senate chose to put the programs in a five-year bill to provide certainty to agricultural producers and their bankers. He said the decision was to put pressure on the House to pass the full bill.
He noted that the House does not have a disaster program in the Continuing Resolution that would essentially authorize the government to stay in business another six months.
"If the House does pass a disaster package, then it moves to the Senate and we see who blinks," he said. "It will be a decision Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has to make on whether to approve short-term disaster aid or hold firm on the Farm Bill."
Moran said he thinks USDA has done everything it can as an agency to help drought-stricken livestock producers and it what happens next is up to Congress.
"The ball is really in the court of the U.S. House of Representatives," he said. "I think the only hope for getting action is to hammer those representatives with e-mails, calls and letters. Let them know this is important, especially if you know your Congressman is among those unwilling to take action."