Congress did not taken action on the Federal Farm Bill before its Sept. 30 expiration date. What does this mean for Americans, and what can we expect to happen on the Farm Bill front after the election in November?
One of the biggest failures of the do-nothing Republican-led Congress was allowing the Farm Bill to expire. The Farm Bill is a vital piece of legislation that helps regulate the prices of the food we grow. This is a bill that doesn’t just benefit the Midwest states but has value for the entire nation, including families here in California.
For farmers all across the country, the Farm Bill means stable crop prices so they are able to stay in business, even during difficult growing seasons. For the average person, that means reliable prices at the grocery store, making it easier to feed our families.
In recent years, the Farm Bill began to make investments in organic and specialty crop research so that we could efficiently grow healthy food for everyone. This was a huge benefit to the Central Coast because, for the first time, the crops grown here were made a priority when developing our national food policy.
Finally, through nutrition programs like SNAP, the Farm Bill helps put food on everyone’s table—even if they have trouble affording it. Through these programs, the Farm Bill does not just provide sound food policy but instead helps us meet our moral obligations to low-income households.
Unfortunately, the Farm Bill expired on Sept. 30. Despite passing in the Senate, the House Republican leadership wouldn’t bring the bill up for a vote. When Congress recessed for the election, they left the legislation in limbo until the lame duck, or even possibly until the next, Congress.
So what does it mean now that Congress just left the Farm Bill sitting on the table? In theory, some fairly scary things.
Our food policy has reverted back to the troubling times of the 1930s and ’40s. The average family will begin to feel the effects at their dinner table. Without the moderating effect of the Farm Bill, we may be looking at a spike in grocery bills. For instance, the price of milk is poised to sky rocket, which is something no family wants to face in these tough economic times.
Here on the Central Coast, without a Farm Bill, all of the recent gains made in specialty and organic crop research will be lost. We will lose things like the Market Access Program which helps us sell our crops overseas.
Additionally, there are provisions in the current bill sitting in Congress that will increase the funding for organics and specialty crops beyond their previous levels. More importantly, it makes their funding permanent, meaning for the first time money for the crops grown here on the Central Coast will still be there in future Farm Bills. This is a Farm Bill that works for all farmers and not just one that benefits growers in the Midwest. If Congress fails to act, none of those gains will be realized.
But there is still a chance to salvage the Farm Bill and reverse some of the damage created by the Republicans’ inaction. As I said earlier, the Democratic-controlled Senate has already done its job. In the Republican-controlled House, Speaker John Boehner has said he will hold a vote when Congress returns after the election. For farmers and families on the Central Coast, I hope he holds to his word.
Congress must complete its work on the Farm Bill to provide certainty for Central Coast farmers and to help provide food for everyone throughout this country. The price is too high if we again fail to act.