The Free Press, Mankato, MN


March 28, 2013

Our View: Congress should pass farm bill

— Farmers typically have to deal with the uncertainties of Congress once every five years when farm bills are renewed.

But this year, farmers are entering the second planting season in as many years waiting to see what Congress does because a bipartisan farm bill wasn't approved last year. Luckily, the old farm bill was extended through this year as part of the fiscal cliff negotiations.

It was unfortunate the bipartisan bill wasn't passed. The new Congress will have to start over and some experts are saying the new farm bill could look very different than the one the House Agriculture Committee and the full Senate approved last year.

Farming has rarely been a partisan issue, but last year the full House vote was delayed because of divisions between Republicans on the food and nutrition provisions. While Speaker John Boehner told an audience in his home state of Ohio that a farm bill would get done this year, he was mum about his position, saying he's going to keep his opinions to himself because the media might report them.

Last year's compromise bill would have reduced the deficit by $13 billion to $25 billion over 10 years. Some of those savings were coming from reductions in payments to farmers and reductions in the food stamp program.

Unfortunately, the dynamics of Congress have changed since last election. We hope that means passing a farm bill will be easier than it was last year. The details have been worked out. The compromise bill was very close last year.

Sen. Al Franken was touring farm country this week to get input from farmers on getting a new five-year farm bill approved. He has co-sponsored a new five-year farm bill that is similar to the bipartisan bill the Senate passed last year. The temporary bill, he says, shortchanges conservation and energy programs as well as some others.

Ag lenders say the delay in passing a new farm bill leaves many farmers with unprocessed loan applications as lenders are unsure what kind of funding might come out of a new farm bill.

Farmers need some certainty or direction as they begin planting this year's crop. Democrats and Republicans in Congress must work to pass a new farm bill and do it sooner than later.

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