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Farm Bill Extension Is Big Disappointment

By: Bill Poquette, Editor-in-Chief

While generally applauding the late-hour congressional maneuvering that pulled the nation back from the fiscal cliff, farm groups were disappointed that in lieu of a new farm bill, the old one was extended to September, the end of the fiscal year.

In a statement, National Association of Wheat Growers President Erik Younggren, a wheat, soybean and sugar beet farmer from Hallock, Minn., said, "NAWG is pleased that leaders in Washington came to some agreement on fiscal and tax policy for our nation that includes an extension of farm policy through the 2013 wheat growing season. This will allow our nation's farmers to know the parameters of tax policy and the farm safety net for spring planting decisions and allow continued operations of critical foreign market development programs.

"However, the extension of the 2008 farm bill is not ideal and we are concerned about unknown implications of automatic spending cuts, known as sequester, which are now postponed,” Younggren continued. "It is of the utmost urgency to our farmer-members that Members of the 113th Congress reauthorize a new farm bill expeditiously. We call on policymakers to come to the table, compromise and send a five-year farm bill to the president for signature this year."

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson was blunter in his statement. "Once again, Congress has left rural America out in the cold. An extension represents a short sighted, temporary fix that ultimately provides inadequate solutions that will leave our farmers and ranchers crippled by uncertainty,” he said.

"The legislation that passed fails to provide disaster aid for farmers or necessary support for our dairy industry, yet continues unjustifiable direct payments. The bill also does not provide mandatory funding for the energy title, specialty crops and organic provisions, and new important programs for beginning farmers and ranchers,” Johnson continued.

"Farmers, ranchers, rural communities and all Americans deserve better and would have been better served with a new five-year farm bill. It is truly a shame that the bipartisan work of both the Senate and House Agriculture Committees has been summarily and entirely discarded. Not only was that work far better than what has passed, it also provided meaningful deficit reduction.”

The National Milk Producers Federation said it will continue its push in the 113th Congress for a five-year farm bill that includes the Dairy Security Act. “The renewal of current programs doesn't offer dairy farmers a meaningful safety net," said Jerry Kozak, president and CEO of NMPF. The fiscal cliff package, extended the MILC program through Sept. 30, 2013, and the price support program through Dec. 31.

As the Senate and House Agriculture committees begin work on a full, five-year farm bill, Kozak said that dairy farmers would reiterate the value of the Dairy Security Act, which eliminates the dairy product price support program, direct payments and export subsidies, and establishes a voluntary risk management tool for farmers.