Farmers urge Congress to pass belated Farm Bill

Illinois Farm Bureau asks members to petition Congress to avoid a ‘nightmare scenario’

A combine harvests crops in Illinois. (Wikimedia Commons/Illinois Farm Bureau)

A combine harvests crops in Illinois. (Wikimedia Commons/Illinois Farm Bureau)

By Ted Cox

The Illinois Farm Bureau is calling on its members to petition Congress to pass a new Farm Bill before the end of the year.

The Illinois Farm Bureau webpage leads with an alert calling on its members to “urge Congress to pass a farm bill in lame-duck session.”

The automated message to Congress begins with the text: “As a farmer experiencing falling prices, lost export markets, higher production costs, and an eroding financial position, I urge you to work quickly to pass the next Farm Bill during this lame-duck session of Congress.”

It blames “issues unrelated to any  policy differences on programs that benefit production agriculture” for causing the delay — including Republican calls for a work requirement for food stamps.

“Failure to act would force the next Congress to start work on the next Farm Bill from square one,” the message reads. “That’s a nightmare scenario that I hope you’ll work to avoid.”

The Farm Bill has passed both houses of Congress, but in different forms that have not yet been reconciled. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin blamed Republican calls for work requirements for the delay this summer, saying, “The House had its problems. They're kind of stuck on one aspect of it, the food-stamp aspect of work requirements, and it stopped them.” He also suggested some urgency with the expiration of the last Farm Bill, adding, “We want to make sure that we get it done sooner rather than later.”

The website suggested this week that progress was being made. It reported that U.S. Rep. Mike Conway, a Texas Republican and chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, had dropped his demand for work requirements. The story quoted National Corn Growers Association Senior Director of Public Policy Sam Willett as saying the key issues left to resolve include payment limits, conservation, forest logging rules, and crop insurance.

The new year will grant Democrats control of the House, perhaps complicating the process. The story said, “Both parties and both sides of the Capitol are desperate for a last-minute deal, rather than having a new, divided Congress start from scratch.”

Farms were socked earlier this year with the loss of trade with China in President Trump’s trade war, with soybean farmers particularly feeling the pain.

The New York Times reported this week that soybean farmers are storing their crops to wait for prices to rise, and that a $12 billion aid package promised by President Trump was slow to distribute money.

The story quoted Lynn Rohrscheib, a Fairmount soybean farmer and chairwoman of the Illinois Soybean Association, as saying she needs to sell soybeans at $10 a bushel to break even, but can get only $8 a bushel with trade to China shut down.

“We don’t want a handout,” Rohrscheib said. “We want trade. We want to sell the crop.”

According to the story, farmers are losing patience with the Trump administration. “We were all really supportive at the beginning,” Rohrscheib said. “We figured we didn’t know all the facts and something would happen and this won’t be a long-term thing. Now it looks like this is going to be a several-year thing and people are getting frustrated.”