The letter, mailed the day before Thanksgiving, said that any legislation replacing the Federal Agricultural Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 (Freedom to Farm) would provide an “important economic stimulus” to rural America.

“New farm legislation must be enacted this year to stimulate and stabilize the rural economy that has been in an economic downturn for five years, with no turn-around in sight,” the authors said in their letter to Daschle, a Democrat from South Dakota, and Lott a Republican from Mississippi.

“Unlike many sectors of the economy, production agriculture did not share in the economic growth of the last decade and has been devastated by depressed commodity prices, declining market opportunities and increasing costs.”

The organizations said that as the Senate seeks ways to strengthen the U.S. economy, they believe it is critical that agriculture, which represents nearly 20 percent of all U.S. economic activity, receive priority consideration.

“The new legislation now pending in the Senate is designed to provide an economic safety net for rural America and eliminate the need for annual ad-hoc emergency assistance that Congress has provided for the past four years,” the letter said.

“It is critical to producers, farm lenders and rural communities that a new farm bill be approved this fall to provide the assurance necessary to plan for next year’s crop production.

The letter warned against non-agriculture related amendments that would potentially slow down the farm bill process.

“We also urge you to oppose any efforts to add unrelated or non-agriculture related issues to the farm bill legislation that could serve to delay the passage of this important legislation prior to the adjournment of Congress.”

Among the organizations signing the letters were the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cotton Council, the National Farmers Union, American Bankers Association, Farm Credit Council, Independent Community Bankers of America, National Association of Wheat Growers, US Rice Producers Association and U.S. Rice Producers’ Group.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com.