MOUNT PLEASANT — The U.S. House of Representatives in 2012 were given one year to come to an agreement on a long-term farm bill. They’re not getting another, said United States Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
“There is no support for an extension in the Senate. It just simply rewards failure, and this needs to get done. Everybody in the countryside knows it needs to get done,” Vilsack said following a town hall hearing on what he calls the food, farm and jobs bill Saturday morning at the Old Threshers Reunion in Mount Pleasant.
The five-year farm bill is set to expire Sept. 30 without action from Congress. While both chambers have passed their respective versions of the bill, the House has not appointed members to a conference committee that would work to reach a compromise on language that could pass.
Vilsack puts the standstill squarely at the heels of the House of Representatives, which passed its farm bill without the nutrition program provisions and has not moved forward with appointing its conferees.
“It’s time we say to House members, ‘We gave you a year. You promised you’d get it done. Get to work,’ “ Vilsack said, adding the House has to “get its act together.”
Vilsack said there also would be problems with passing another one-year extension. Those problems include retaliatory tariffs Brazil could begin to impose if an agreement is not reached, halting any effort to redirect direct payments into other safety net areas and no disaster assistance to livestock producers who have been impacted by drought.
Like House leadership, some of the attendees at the forum also have questions about the use of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, the former food stamp program.
The House initially sought a farm bill that would make more drastic cuts to SNAP than the Senate version, before removing them entirely to be debated separately. Vilsack said the nutrition programs typically help ensure the farm programs can get majority support, when so few members of Congress represent rural America.