Representatives from energy, agricultural, conservation and trade groups gathered on the grounds of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, putting pressure on lawmakers to pass the 2012 Farm Bill.
Rally participants included representatives from more than 80 organizations that have formally backed the Farm Bill Now! effort, which aims to highlight the impending expiration of the 2008 Farm Bill. This summer, when Congress adjourned for August recess, the Senate had passed a new version of the bill, but the House had only passed their version through committee. Now, organizations and lawmakers alike say it is time to turn up the heat on Congress.
At the rally, Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., chairwoman of the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee; and Jerry Moran, R-Kan. pledged support for the farm bill alongside Reps. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., ranking member of the Committee on Agriculture; and Kristi Noem, R-S.D.
With only 18 days before the current legislation expires, lawmakers urged voters to contact their congress members and develop a "grassroots effort" to bring the matter to the attention of lawmakers. Rep. Collin Peterson said there hasn't been enough activity among the public to get Congress truly energized about passing the bill.
"We went through August and we didn't really see the groundswell of people concerned about [the Farm Bill]. If you really want to make this happen, you go back to your districts and you get 100, 200 people to call those members' offices and that will turn this thing around," Peterson said. "You've got to go out there and get this grassroots effort going."
Peterson said without pressure from voters, the farm bill issue could be forced into next year, meaning less money, a new Congressional Budget Office score, and "starting over."
"There is no good outcome going into next year," Peterson said. He insisted that nothing good for farmers and ranchers could come from delaying the bill.
"If we get into next year we would not [pass the bill] until August or September. There is no good outcome of an extension, there is no necessity for an extension," Peterson said.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow also said an extension or disaster assistance isn't necessary, as disaster assistance is already included in the bill. She said getting a bill passed is all about the desire to do it.
"There's no reason that this farm bill can't get passed by the house, you just have to want to get it done. It's the political will to get it done," Stabenow said.
Stabenow said allowing the U.S. to revert to old policy is "crazy," addressing the effects on markets and policy as a result of not passing a farm bill.
Sen. Jerry Moran explained that the lack of a farm bill creates uncertainty in the farming profession.
"We need a farm bill that tells the next generation of American agriculture producers that it's a great place to be in rural America on a family farm, and a farm bill can do that," Moran said.
Moran said failing to bring the bill to conference doesn't fix problems some lawmakers have with the legislation.
"There is a false suggestion that if the bill spends too much money in a certain area, then doing nothing solves that problem," Moran said. "If that is your concern, come fight the fight, work it out, solve the problem and pass a farm bill so that this certainty can occur."
Moran said a storm is coming on Sept. 30 when the farm bill expires.
"To my colleagues both in the house and the senate, America depends upon us to do what is right. Let's go harvest a farm bill," he said.
A host of others supporting the Farm Bill Now! effort also spoke at the rally, including representatives from commodity groups, trade organizations and energy coalitions. The groups urged support for the farm bill to ensure American jobs, producer certainty and disaster assistance.
For more information, visit www.farmbillnow.com.