Let's hope the first quarter of 2002 is better than the last quarter of 2001.

It is time to put the events of Sept. 11 behind us and move forward.

Very shortly, Congress should reconvene. House and Senate members have some very important issues to confront.

On the agriculture side, the Senate needs to start working seriously on a new farm bill. Regardless of how the funding shakes out, the Senate needs to do some serious number crunching to provide a bill that protects farmers from low prices, the hazards of weather, government actions and allow producers to continue making their production decisions.

Since the Senate did not pass a farm bill in 2001, and the Federal Agricultural Improvement and Reform (FAIR) Act of 1996 does not expire until later this year, it is time for our lawmakers to sit down and work together for the good of the ag industry.

While members of Congress are working on this new farm bill, our farm organizations need to revisit their wish lists.

January and February normally is the time frame that many farm organizations hold annual meetings. Ag producer members should attend these national meetings and provide inputs that can be passed to the Senate to consider in passing a farm bill.

Even if the Senate passes a farm bill in the opening weeks of the next session, it still must go to a House-Senate conference committee to work out the differences in language and funding and then go to the President for approval. However, now that it is 2002, we might assume the Senate will take its time in crafting a new farm bill. And what happens in the budget committees in 2002 also will impact the bill.

In fact, the House might revisit some of its farm bill funding proposals. Some economic conditions have changed since the House put its final stamp on the bill.

Ag producers and their organizations also need to take a fresh look at the farm bill. In the rush to pass a farm bill last year, there was very little consensus, except everyone wanted a farm bill. Now, it is time to revisit some of the farm bill titles and add some realistic numbers and funding that truly will assist producers over the long term.

With all the national and international changes and events that have taken place since the Fair Act of 1996 was passed, can anyone be sure that a 10-year farm bill can be written to cover all the potential scenarios that might occur and provide protection for this nation's ag producers?

During the next several months, let's insist that our lawmakers and farm leaders discuss a farm bill that will be meaningful to producers now and into the future.

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