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Agriculture News As It Happens

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House leadership pulls farm bill extension; disaster aid to be considered separately

The House leadership has just pulled the bill that would have extended the 2008 farm bill for one year and provided disaster aid.

The House will take up a separate disaster aid package on Thursday. Offsets for that aid are not known.

Major farm groups and Democrats did not support the extension.

Rep. Rosa De Lauro, D-Conn., a leading House liberal, urged Democrats not to vote for the extension even though it would have extended food stamps without cuts for one year. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., also sent a letter to his colleagues.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said today that August would be spent on negotiations between the Senate and the House.

Today Organic Trade Association, Western Growers, and the National Association of Wheat Growers added their names to the long list of farm groups that want a new five-year farm bill rather than an extension of the 2008 bill.

“OTA also would like to see a five-year farm bill go forward,” Laura Batcha, the executive vice president of the group, said in an email.

Tom Nassif
Tom Nassif
Western Growers President and CEO Tom Nassif said in a news release that he opposes an extension because it would greatly reduce the gains made for the specialty crop title in the Senate and House versions of the bill, as there is no baseline for the title.

“Western Growers opposes the one-year extension, unless it would yield a conference of the full farm bill,” Nassif said.

“The extension falls short of the needs of fresh fruit, vegetable and tree nut growers and would completely eliminate the specialty crop research initiative that is used successfully nationwide for food safety research and programs,” he said.

“An extension of current law not only sets back investment in programs critical to the safe production of nutritious food needed to fight the growing epidemic of obesity in America, it leaves farmers with uncertainty about the future and little security when making business plans,” Nassif said.

Western Growers, whose members farm mostly in California and Arizona, provide half the nation’s fresh fruits and vegetables, including a third of the fresh organic produce.

On Thursday, the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance headed by United Fresh Produce Association Senior Vice President Robert Guenther announced it favors a five-year farm bill, including provisions in the Senate-passed farm bill and the House Agriculture Committee-passed bill, rather than an extension.

Erik Younggren
Erik Younggren
The National Association of Wheat Growers issued a formal statement today that it favors a five-year farm bill and opposes an extension of the 2008 law.

“The top legislative priority for the National Association of Wheat Growers during this Congress remains the achievement of a new, five-year farm bill before current law expires on Sept. 30,” Wheat Growers President Erik Younggren said in a news release.

“The association and its farmer-leaders do not support a short-term extension of the 2008 farm bill by itself,” Younggren said. “A one-year extension would create even more uncertainly in a political, agronomic and economic climate that is already uncertain enough.”

“A short-term extension would not incorporate many of the farm policy reforms that are crucial to garnering widespread support for a new farm law,” he continued. “And a one-year extension would set up the farm community for another year of waiting for Congress to get its job done.

“As it is, next year’s winter wheat crop will be in the ground before any farm policy legislation is able to go to the president’s desk this year,” Younggren said. “We appreciate the continued efforts of our farm leaders who are working to achieve a five-year bill, and encourage members of the House to do what they can, through whatever process possible, to give our nation’s growers long-term farm policy certainty this year.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., asked congressional farm leaders today to include her state in any disaster package.

“For New York state’s economy to grow, we need our farms to thrive,” Gillibrand said in a letter to Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Senate Agriculture ranking member Pat Roberts, R-Kan., House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and House Agriculture ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn.

“Still recovering from last year’s back-to-back natural disasters and a late spring frost, this drought is just the latest drain on our farmland’s productivity – costing our state even more crops. America has always stood by those who are suffering and helped them to rebuild. And we need to continue standing by New York’s farmers so they can get back to business, and keep our agricultural industry on the move.”