Hot August Nights

Hot summer nightsIt’s that time of year again when many of us are on vacation. If you’re not working and enjoying these hot August nights, you’re in good company. Congress is also on recess until September 9. Lawmakers left Washington DC with unfinished business and a farm and agriculture community truly sweating it out.

The 2008 Farm Bill elapsed last September, and rather than pass a new farm bill Congress extended the 2008 bill for one year. You can reference my blog “Over the Organic Cliff We Go” for more background.

This extension left many organic priorities stranded and without funding. For almost one year the following programs have been bereft of money and resources:

National Organic Certification Cost Share Program

Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative

Organic Production and Market Data Initiatives

Export Development Programs

The organic community has literally been sweating it out because Congress has repeatedly failed to do the job it was elected to do. I elaborate more in my blog “What’s up Congress.”

Both the Senate and House have passed different versions of a bill which will go to a conference committee to resolve differences between the proposed pieces of legislation. The goal is to draft a compromise bill that both bodies of government can accept.  After the conference committee agrees to a compromise bill, the proposal must pass both houses in identical form before it can be sent to the President for his signature.

When Congress returns September 9,, there will be only nine legislative days left before the current farm bill expires September 30. During those nine days the House must pass its food stamps bill. That means the two houses must hammer out and pass the agreement they come to. With all the other important business on Congress’s plate, it will be a hot time in Washington DC.

The House and Senate are so far apart on food stamps it’s possible they would not have agreed on a bill even if they’d stayed in session. The House has proposed cuts of $40 billion to the SNAP program, also known as the food stamp program, which will prove unacceptable to the democratically controlled Senate. Unfortunately, the debate has become shrill, with each side focusing on the other’s motives about which groups benefit more or less. Much of this has little relevance to long-term agricultural sector needs.

Even though we are all on vacation, don’t let up the heat on Congress. We need a farm bill.  Contact Your Elected Leader today and throughout the August recess. The message is simple “Pass a Farm Bill that includes all organic priorities!” Let’s get fired up and keep the heat on our Congressional Leaders.

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