Ag. Sec’y Talks about the Farm Bill Process

“Obviously all of us are interested in getting a farm bill done.”

But Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters the other day he doesn’t think it will get done until…

“…such time as all parties are looking at it from a practical point of view.”

Vilsack said the House version promises all kinds of programs for farmers, but does not have the money to pay for them.

“As the Congressional Budget Office has determined, there are multiple billions of dollars of deficit in the House bill, which causes, I think, concern about whether it can pass the House and certainly have problems in the Senate.”

And so, as Vilsack puts it…

“There are many issues here with raising expectations too high and not having real money. I like to say that they’ve used Harry Potter’s visibility cloak to essentially cloak over what I think CBO says is at least a $30 billion deficit. That’s a very large number, and they’ve got to get reasonable and practical about this if they’re truly interested in getting the farm bill done.”

Vilsack says farmers have a right to expect to get it done, even though there are major differences of opinion on issues such as the level of nutrition assistance that should be provided to low income families and the level of assistance that farmers should be receiving.

“So I think farmers expect policy workers to work from a practical perspective. I think they expect that there be a reasonable commitment to trying to address some of the challenges that we have in the countryside. And I think they expect the work to get done.”

But once again, lawmakers are up against another time crunch. The current one year Farm Bill extension runs out, September 30.

“My hope is, and I’m committed to working with both houses Senate try to see this done for the expiration of the existing extension. After all, we are more than a year delayed in getting this done. I hope is that we wouldn’t have to have an extension. But obviously, if September 30 comes and goes and we haven’t got a farm bill passed at that point, it would be appropriate for the Congress to pass an extension to give them sufficient time, hopefully before the end of the year, to get this farm bill passed.”

Vilsack says passing a farm bill is never an easy process, but it’s even more difficult during an election year.