Talk to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack these days, and the former Iowa Governor will say that American farmers are producing record incomes and exports.. Just as the combines bring in a bountiful harvest, there’s a call to keep that momentum going.
“Farmers have got to start speaking with a single voice to the rest of the country about the importance of agriculture,” he said.
That’s why DeWitt farmer Rob Cousins came to Maquoketa on Monday. Secretary Vilsack is talking about the Food, Farm and Jobs Bill. It’s a ten-year package worth about a trillion dollars.
“It’s just one piece of the puzzle that needs to be put in place so we have a clear understanding,” Cousins said.
That unity is important to farmers like Cousins. But passing the massive legislation won’t be easy. There are fundamental differences between the Senate and House versions.
Most differences come down to cost and cuts. The House version drastically slices more from nutrition programs. Programs that help to revitalize the rural economy.
“14 cents of every dollar spent in the grocery store goes in the farmer’s pocket,” Vilsack said. “As nutrition assistance is reduced, it’s also going to reduce farm income.”
Crop insurance, conservation programs and others depend on the bill. Without congressional action by the end of September, it will revert to outdated policies.
“The worst thing that could happen would be for nothing to happen,” Vilsack said.
It makes sense to Cousins, who says the uncertainty makes it difficult for farmers to plan ahead.
“For farmers to unite and have one voice to speak solely on the importance of agriculture is paramount at this point in time,” Cousins concluded.
It’s a growing season that also needs to be an active season for Congress.