It is fair to say that things are a little hectic right now in farm country.
Drought and fires continue their stranglehold on many farmers and ranchers while wet weather has seriously delayed planting for many others. The Farm Bill was approved by Congress only three months ago and implementation is only barely just begun. Important tax provisions, including enhanced section 179 and bonus depreciation, have expired with no clear sign of when they will be reauthorized. A slew of costly new EPA regulations are coming down the pike. State governments are passing labeling requirements on products made with biotech crops even as the federal government honors Dr. Norman Borlaug with a statue in the Capitol for saving billions of lives through that biotechnology. Farmers and ranchers are having a tough time receiving supplies and shipping commodities due to increased competition for rail service. And the list goes on and on.
The one thing farmers don’t need at a critical juncture like this is even more uncertainty. Thankfully, for the most part, the House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittees have produced bills that honor the five-year commitment made to farmers and ranchers under the Farm Bill.
Generally, neither bill seeks to add to the worry of farmers and ranchers by attempting to rewrite a just-passed Farm Bill that has not yet even been implemented.
This is certainly an appropriate decision considering how much time and effort Congress spent developing the bipartisan farm bill, which was more than three years, 40 hearings, four markups and seven floor debates in the making.
It is also an appropriate decision considering how much money the “farm” portion of the new farm bill actually saves taxpayers—nearly $3 billion more than originally projected according to the most recent Congressional Budget Office estimate.
The House Appropriations Committee may face some pressures to pull the rug out from under farmers and ranchers this Thursday when they, too, take up the annual appropriations bill. But they could do well by rural America by following the bipartisan example of Chairman Aderholt and Ranking Member Farr in leaving the five-year promise of the Farm Bill intact and not creating yet more uncertainty for farmers and ranchers in one of the two busiest seasons of the year.
After all, farmers and ranchers already wrestle with lots of things totally outside of their control including weather, new regulations, taxes, transportation and trade policy uncertainty, and high and rising foreign subsidies even as U.S. support ebbs to its lowest levels, as just a few examples.
America’s farmers and ranchers shouldn’t also have to wrestle with Washington for a fourth year in a row over a Farm Bill that’s just been passed and signed into law.