Just to recap: Congress left DC in July with a Farm Bill mess: 5-year Farm Bill legislation was moved aside in the House for a Disaster Relief Bill, which was turned into discussion about a one-year short term bill while the Senate was holding on to the version of the Farm Bill they passed in June. Ultimately, the session closed and the two houses couldn’t agree on what type of bill to pass, let alone what the details of the bill would be.
Congress returned from recess Monday with the current Farm Bill set to expire on September 30, with many rural parts of the country still reeling from this summer’s devastating drought. Members of Congress who are up for election in affected areas felt the pressure, while they were back home, to come back to DC and pass a bill before the September deadline and November election. Members of Congress who are up for election in areas less directly impacted by the Farm Bill consider that they would be better served not to have to vote on a bill before the November election – this November’s election isn’t going to just decide who is president of the United States, but will also dictate what food is on our plate.
So, what are our options? The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition suggested that there are three options for moving forward:
1) Congress Passes Farm Bill Reauthorization in September – this option would most likely result in the strongest legislation with the best outcomes for farmers and eaters, and is supported by advocates from agribusinesses to organics. Even today, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow called on the House Leadership to take up the Farm Bill passed by the House Agriculture Committee in July and get a 5-year bill onto the House floor.
2) Some Sort of Extension of the Current Farm Bill – this is the more likely outcome, although what type of extension is very unclear.
3) No Action on Farm Bill in September – technically the Farm Bill would revert back to the permanent farm laws that date from 1949. Although, in practice, this would be closer to a general slow down for programs and funding.
So, what should you do? With 8 working days in the House and 12 working days in the Senate before the current Farm Bill expires, now is the time to contact your elected officials (senate.gov and house.gov) and let them know that you want a 2012 Farm Bill passed by September 30.