No Disaster Assistance Without Farm Bill

Tom Vilsack

Each day without rain reduces yields and puts this year’s crops in jeopardy, but grain and livestock producers can count on no government help until a new Farm Bill is passed. In an exclusive interview with HAT, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says USDA has no money or programs to provide any assistance to farmers being impacted by the drought, “Right now we have no disaster programs, they expired last year. We have no capacity whatsoever to do what we did last year.” He said the Farm Bill now before Congress has a revenue assurance program, a livestock indemnity program and other assistance that would help farmers hit with disasters but, first, he said, “Congress must act.”


Vilsack said he is upset by the more than 200 Farm Bill amendments that have been put forth in the Senate, many having nothing to do with agriculture, “It is really unfortunate.” He said, without a Farm Bill, there is a great deal of uncertainty both for farmers and for the markets, “We just have to get past this silliness.”


Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) wants to eliminate “non-germane” amendments. But Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) sees the Farm Bill as must-pass legislation, giving Republicans an opportunity to pass items on their wish list.   Vilsack praised the work of the Senate Ag Committee and farm state lawmakers who are trying to work to advance the legislation quickly.


Late Monday Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the  Senate Committee on Agriculture,  issued the following statement regarding the bipartisan agreement on over 70 amendments that will allow the Senate to move forward with Farm Bill voting. “This bill was developed through bipartisan collaboration, passed committee with broad bipartisan support, and we now have a bipartisan agreement to move forward with a bill that affects 16 million American jobs.  My colleagues on both sides of the aisle understand we must act as soon as possible to give farmers the certainty they need to keep growing the economy.”


While the talking continues in Washington, the condition of Indiana’s crops continues to decline. According to the latest USDA report, Indiana corn is rated as 37 percent good to excellent compared with 55 percent last year at this time.  Soybean condition also fell further and is now rated 32 percent good to excellent compared with 56 percent last year at this time.

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