For most of this year, Illinois farmers (along with every U.S. farmer and many environmental groups) have advocated for a Farm Bill Now. What we’ve really been asking for is a farm bill to be passed before the end of the year because once the passage of the legislation gets pushed into 2013, our baseline budget gets substantially reduced.
Please note: Farmers are not trying to dismiss the fact that the federal budget needs cuts to be sustainable. We actually proposed substantial cuts to our own programming in return for much smaller budget investments in crop insurance. We feel we have already contributed to balancing the federal budget and we are unwilling to take more than our fair share of cuts.
What happened last week is that Congress decided to recess early so that members could campaign in their districts and, you guess it, they didn’t pass a farm bill before they left. Speaker Boehner even through in the towel and said that he just didn’t have the votes to pass anything out of the House.
What that means for Illinois farmers is that they have exactly six weeks today to convince their elected officials that in order to get a vote for them in the district, we need a vote from them in Washington, DC on the farm bill.
If we don’t get a farm bill before the end of the year, the current bill gets extended. Not only does this mean that we’ve lost all the good work by the Senate earlier this year to get a bill that Illinois agriculture really liked, but also that farmers will sustain severe cuts to crop insurance which is the program that keeps them in business in years of major devastation like this year with the historic drought.
Without crop insurance, when farmers spend thousands to millions of dollars to put a crop in the ground and then experience a total crop failure, they go out of business. That means that your food is less secure, less reliable, and less affordable. The Federal government does have a place in helping to insure farmers and we need to pass a farm bill in 2012 to make that insurance the best that it can be given current budget constraints.
If this makes sense to you, please call your Congressman today and ask him or her to pass a farm bill in the lame duck session of Congress.