(KMAland) -- Officials in Washington are still working to hammer out the final details on a Farm Bill.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says that members of Congress have had plenty of time to get the Farm Bill done, and now is the time to get it done to benefit area farmers.
"There are livestock producers who are looking for disaster assistance, and producers in general who want to know what the rules are going to be so they can make plans in their operations accordingly for the next couple of years, and they have been hesitant to do that, not knowing what the programs are going to be. There are export opportunities we are missing out on because we can't promote as aggressively without a Farm Bill, so there are many good reasons why this needs to be done. There's also the concern of implementing permanent law if it doesn't get done and what kind of an impact that will have on producers and consumers, so we are very focused on getting the conference committee to get their work done and get the House and Senate to vote on a Farm Bill."
Vilsack says once that is done, they can pass it to the USDA and have it implemented effectively and efficiently. He says the disaster assistance the Farm Bill would provide is also something needed in KMAland, and elsewhere.
"Any livestock producer in the Midwest has been impacted by weather. Certainly the drought hit us pretty hard last year, and the snowstorms have hit us hard this year. The reality is the producers don't have the disaster-assistance programs that they had a couple of years ago to get them through a tough time. This Farm Bill would resume those programs, make them retroactive, and put us in a position at the USDA to provide help now. Every day that we wait, it becomes one more day that it's harder for those livestock producers to make it."
Vilsack says the disagreement over the food stamp portion of the bill is likely not responsible for the delay in passing the bill:
"I think there are small issues in the commodity title that are getting worked through. I think there will be continued discussion on how we're going to help our dairy producers through these difficult peaks and valleys they have with very volatile prices. I think that the folks on the conference committee have figured out that if you get the policy right in the SNAP program, you'll get the number right, and that policy should be tightening up the eligibility requirements that have been a bit loose in some cases, but not doing it in a way that would disqualify millions of people that need the program in a tough economy."
You can near the complete interview with Vilsack during our noon farm broadcast Tuesday.