Congress dismisses Farm Bill despite mounting pressure

By Anna Simet | September 20, 2012

With Sept. 21 being the final day of the last scheduled legislative session prior to the November election, all whom have stakes in the agriculture industry continue to pressure Congress to pass a new Farm Bill or an extension, including those affected by a lapse of energy title programs.

On Sept. 19, the Agriculture Energy Coalition sent an open letter to House Speaker John Boehner and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi urging them to schedule a debate on the Farm Bill version passed by the House Committee on Agriculture in July and sent to the House last week.  “The certainty provided by a five-year Farm Bill is particularly valuable to farmers, business owners and investors with an interest in rural energy initiatives,” the letter states. “Inaction by the House on H.R. 6083 will introduce a grave level of uncertainty to a growing segment of the U.S. economy, deterring private sector investments and threatening good paying jobs.”

The letter also points out that mandatory funding for rural energy programs in the 2008 Farm Bill—which the House version of the Farm Bill currently lacks—helped get the first six U.S. advanced biofuels biorefineries under construction, saved farmers money and helped spur the commercial growth of energy crops on underutilized land.  The Senate passed its own version prior to the House Committee on Agriculture’s version, and it does contain mandatory energy title program funding.

A “Farm Bill Now” rally held last week on Capitol Hill, endorsed by nearly 90 organizations, as well as a petition circulating in the House calling for a forced vote, both appear to have been unsuccessful in getting the House to take action.

Current energy title programs expire Sept. 30, and those affected by their expiration represent a wide range of agriculture and energy industry members, many of whom have released statements of urgency for the Farm Bill’s passage. These groups include the National Farmers Union, National Corn Growers Association, enzyme manufacturer Novozymes, the Advanced Biofuel Association, the American Soybean Association and ethanol advocate organization Growth Energy.

With only one day remaining, the outlook appears grim for a new Farm Bill or an extension. However, there is a slight but unlikely chance that progress could be made during the upcoming lame duck session.