Farm Bill Now coalition pushes for new legislation
By Larry Dreiling
As Congress was on its August recess, a coalition of the nation's agricultural organizations announced they have joined in an effort to raise public awareness of the need for Congress to pass a new, comprehensive, five-year farm bill before current farm programs expire in September.
The coalition, called Farm Bill Now, comprises associations and coalitions representing commodity crops, livestock, dairy, specialty crops, state and local governments, minor crops, energy and biobased product groups, farm cooperatives and financial groups, as well as the nation's two largest farm groups, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union. Each organization has strong and distinct policy priorities, yet all are committed to passing a new, comprehensive bill this year.
The group Aug. 22 issued a statement, titled "Why We Need a Farm Bill," on the importance of new farm legislation for America's farmers:
"Calling the farm bill the 'farm bill' suggests its impact is limited only to farms and to the rural areas to which they are so closely tied. It's really a jobs bill, a food bill, a conservation bill, a research bill, an energy bill, a trade bill. In other words, it's a bill that affects every American.
"The farm bill affects our nation's ability to provide the necessities of life for a global population projected to pass 9 billion by 2050. Here at home, it affects an industry that provides 23 million--or 1 in every 12--American jobs.
"The farm bill has broad impact on our citizens and our economy. It provides healthy foods to millions of schoolchildren and nutritious options to families in need. It develops and expands trade with valuable foreign markets. By reducing spending significantly compared to prior farm bills, the proposals pending right now in Congress address the need to get our nation's fiscal house in order.
"And yes, it benefits American farms--98 percent of which are owned and operated by families. It helps big farms and small farms, major crops and specialty crops, organic farmers and conventional farmers, cattle ranchers and cotton ginners, farmers markets and national suppliers, and the vast range of other pursuits that make up American agriculture. This year, it would help farmers tackle the challenges posed by the worst drought in a generation.
"While Congress waits to finish the farm bill, we are united in asking all Americans to encourage legislators--home for summer town hall meetings and speeches--to finish this vital legislation before the current farm and food law expires in September. After all, it's your bill too."
In addition to the statement, Farm Bill Now launched an interactive web portal at www.farmbillnow.com, through which visitors to the site can connect to their members of Congress and show their support for a new five-year farm bill.
Using messages to Congress via social media, event locations and times, and an online petition, farmbillnow.com gives both farmers and consumers the resources they need to make their voices heard, telling Congress that the farm bill needs to be completed before the current farm food law expires in September.
In the coming weeks, Farm Bill Now will hold events in Iowa and on Capitol Hill to underscore the message as well.
On Aug. 28, farmers representing multiple groups within the coalition discussed the Farm Bill Now effort at the annual Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa.
Pam Johnson, first vice president of the National Corn Growers Association, participated in a press conference at the show with six other agricultural groups, including Dennis Slater, president of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers; Ron Heck, board member of the 25Ãó25 Alliance; Steve Wellman, president of the American Soybean Association; Craig Hill, president of the Iowa Farm Bureau; and Chris Peterson, president of the Iowa Farmers Union.
"Agriculture is one of the few bright spots in the American economy," Johnson said during the press conference. "Our farmers continue to be more productive and innovative. But to continue that trend, we need to have some certainty about how we plan our business. And that is exactly what the farm bill does.
"Agriculture policy historically has not just been bipartisan, it's been non-partisan," said Johnson. "When the Farm Progress Show wraps up (Aug. 30), we will be exactly one month away from the current farm bill expiring. Naysayers might suggest a new bill can't be completed in time, but we are here to say it can be--and to call on Congress to pull together to finish their job. This is a bill that will impact every American and a bill that needs to be done now."
"We represent 850 equipment manufacturing companies, with 450 of them involved in the agricultural industry," Slater said. "Our farmers, our manufacturers, our American workers and families, simply cannot afford to have Congress keep delaying this."
On Sept. 12, representatives of many of the groups will gather on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol to encourage Congress to pass the bill before programs expire at the end of the month.
For more information on Farm Bill Now, visit farmbillnow.com.
Larry Dreiling can be reached by phone at 785-628-1117, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Farm Bill Now coalition members
Members of the Farm Bill Now coalition so far include the following:
Agricultural Retailers Association
American Beekeeping Federation
American Farm Bureau Federation
American Farmland Trust
American Feed Industry Association
American Pulse Association
American Seed Trade Association
American Sheep Industry Association
American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers
American Soybean Association
American Sugar Alliance
Association of Equipment Manufacturers
Biobased Products Coalition
Council of State Governments East
Council of State Governments Midwest
Farm Credit Council
National Association of Conservation Districts
National Association of Counties
National Association of Wheat Growers
National Barley Growers Association
National Cattlemen's Beef Association
National Corn Growers Association
National Cotton Council
National Council of Farmer Cooperatives
National Farmers Organization
National Farmers Union
National Milk Producers Federation
National Onion Association
National Potato Council
National Sorghum Producers
National Sunflower Association
Northarvest Bean Growers Association
Northeast State Association for Agricultural Stewardship
Produce Marketing Association
Southern Peanut Farmers Federation
Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance
State Agriculture and Rural Leaders
The Nature Conservancy
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
United Dairymen of Arizona
United Egg Producers
United Fresh Produce Association
U.S. Apple Association
U.S. Canola Association
U.S. Dry Bean Council
USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council
USA Rice Federation
Western Growers Association
Western Peanut Growers Association