The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition supported passage of the farm bill as amended after three days of Senate debate.

“NSAC congratulates Senate leaders for moving ahead with this bipartisan legislation,” said Ferd Hoefner, NSAC Policy Director. 

“This debate and vote were important hurdles to overcome for Congress to pass a full reauthorization before the current bill expires on Sept. 30.”

While the bill includes historic commodity payment limit reforms and renewed investments in a variety of sustainable farm and food programs, the Senate-passed bill is far from perfect. 

“The bill would benefit greatly from more agriculture reform, a greater local and regional food focus, and a much greater commitment to economic development and jobs,” said Hoefner. 

“We are also disappointed with the $3.7 billion cut to conservation programs on working farms and ranches.”

Several major amendments adopted by the Senate made significant improvements to the bill.

“Senate adoption of amendments by Senator Brown (D-Ohio) on rural development and beginning farmers, Senator Chambliss (R-Ga.) on soil and wetland conservation, and Senators Durbin (D-Ill.) and Coburn (R-Okla.) on crop insurance subsidy limits brought the bill more in line with the ‘reform’ and ‘jobs’ in its title,” said Hoefner. 

“These amendments, along with others like Senator Merkley's (D-Ore.) on crop insurance for organic farmers and Senator Grassley's (R-Iowa) on commodity payment limit reform, significantly improved the bill. Without passage of these amendments, we could not have supported passage of the final bill.”

All of these improvements would not have happened without significant citizen engagement in the process.  “NSAC thanks all of the farmers and grassroots activists who took action in support of reform and a sustainable farming future,” said Hoefner. 

“Without the countless calls and e-mails from people doing the hard work of building sustainable food systems in their communities, many of the reforms in the bill would not have been included,” noted Hoefner.

All eyes now turn to the House of Representatives. The House Agriculture Committee this week announced a delay in their consideration of the bill, but Chairman Lucas (R-Okla.) said he will move “hell or high water” on the farm bill after the July 4 recess.

House Majority Leader Cantor (R-Va.), however, has not listed the farm bill for potential action on the House floor this summer and is quoted this week saying he wants to “push the pause button” on the bill and assess the political situation.

“Our message to the House leaders is very simple,” said Hoefner. 

“Now is not the time to hit the pause button, now is the time to roll up your sleeves and get the bill done on time and in proper order. 

“The current farm bill expires on Sept. 30, giving the House exactly 17 legislative days to take up and pass the bill before expiration, assuming Committee passage the week of July 9. 

“The hour is late. It is not yet time to hit the panic button, but the hand must come off the pause button or there will be no bill this year.”