Editorial: Passing a farm bill is critical

Lisa Yates @Lisa_editor
Lisa Yates, editor

Congress adjourned until after the November elections without action on a new farm bill. Lawmakers could get it done after Election Day in the lame-duck session but that's not likely unless we demand it.

Passing a farm bill is critical.

The farm bill is a major piece of legislation that sets policy for a wide range of initiatives affecting agriculture, nutrition programs for low-income families, and rural development. Lawmakers typically revamp and approve a new farm bill every five years.

This time, the bill was caught up in controversies such as changes to nutrition programs.

Initiatives such as food stamps (now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) account for about 80 percent of the funding. Republicans were looking to make cuts. Democrats objected.

It's always the same old story; and, I'm getting tired of it. It's time to work together to prevent another disaster from happening.

I recently interviewed La. Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain on the farm bill and other issues. He said passing a farm bill provides critical stability for Louisiana farmers. Without it, he said, banks can't make loans and farmers can't plant crops.

He said this will not only hurt our state's economy, but also it will result in higher food prices nationwide.

In fact, The Huffington Post recently reported that the wholesale price of milk could double. That could force prices to more than $6 for a gallon.

If Congress is unable to take action, farm policy could revert back to 1949 permanent law. That means dairy producers could get twice the current cash price, which means dairy processors would have to raise their prices, too. That all adds up to higher prices for consumers.

Prices are steady because the current farm bill regulates the price of milk. This could change.

Already prices for burgers and chicken have skyrocketed as much as 20 percent because of the drought. There's talk that an increase in the price of feed for pigs could lead to a bacon shortage in 2013.

Bloomberg News reported that we could be paying between 3 and 4 percent more for food next year on top of this year's 3.5 percent increase.

Is your income rising as fast? It's probably not, so here's what you can do:

Contact your Congressman. Ask him to extend the current farm bill, or pass a new one. Either way, this must happen prior to Dec. 31.

Get a commitment and hold him accountable. There's too much at stake to be silent on this issue.