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Vilsack says farm bill prospects uncertain

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Thursday that the House Republican leadership should have brought up the farm bill before leaving to campaign and that the bill’s prospects in the lame duck session are uncertain, the National Journal reported today.

After watching his wife, Christie, a candidate for the House, debate Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, Vilsack said that the House Republican leadership’s reasons for not bringing up the bill — that they did not have enough time or votes to pass it — were insufficient.

He also said he believes the Republicans are trying to align the bill with the budget proposal of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Iowa, who is now the Republican candidate for vice president.

Vilsack said he is concerned that rural Americans will be asked to provide more than their fair share for deficit reduction, and that timing could be a problem in finishing the bill.

“This is much more complicated now,” Vilsack said. “Instead of the focus being solely on rural America — as it should be —now it’s put into the context of sequester, deficit reduction, and tax policy. We’re basically saying the people who couldn’t solve these problems in two years will now have to solve them in four weeks. I’m just a little skeptical and concerned.”

“In a year that has brought its share of challenges to America’s farmers and ranchers, the House Republicans have added new uncertainty for rural America,” Vilsack said. “Unfortunately, House Republicans left Washington without passing comprehensive, multi-year food, farm and jobs legislation, leaving thousands of farming families exposed,” he said.

“U.S. agriculture is fighting to maintain the tremendous momentum it has built over the past three years, but with natural disasters and other external forces threatening livelihoods of our farmers and ranchers, certainty is more important than ever. Americans deserve a food, farm and jobs bill that reforms the safety net for producers in times of need, promotes the bio-based economy, conserves our natural resources, strengthens rural communities, promotes job growth in rural America, and supports food assistance to low-income families.”

“Without the certainty of a multi-year bill, rural communities are being asked to shoulder undue burdens,” Vilsack said.