2012 Farm Bill: DFA members make a difference

Written by Kara Petrovic

Dairy Farmers of America members and employees recently rallied together to urge support for the Farm Bill.

When Congress headed home in August to their respective congressional districts and states without completing work on the 2012 Farm Bill, more than 70 DFA members took the opportunity to meet with more than 40 members of Congress to voice their support for passage of the Farm Bill.

In addition, members joined DFA staff in a petition to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), urging him to bring the Farm Bill to the floor for a vote. In early September, more than 1,800 signatures were collected and delivered to Boehner.

“Throughout this process, members and staff have actively engaged Congress to ensure the Farm Bill incorporates policy reforms needed for the entire dairy industry,” says Jackie Klippenstein, DFA vice president for industry and legislative affairs. “The petition serves as another step toward compelling our federal legislators to complete the bill.”

Each year, Congress breaks for the month of August to give legislators time to travel across their home districts or state to speak with constituents. The monthlong district work period provided DFA members with an opportunity to speak to their members of Congress in person and explain why dairy producers need passage of the 2012 Farm Bill and the dairy policy reforms incorporated in that legislation.

While the recess delayed passage of the Farm Bill, it also postponed reauthorization of several key disaster assistance programs needed for those experiencing losses due to extreme weather conditions. Without passing the 2012 Farm Bill or extending the 2008 authorization law by September 30, current agriculture programs would revert back to the provisions of the Agricultural Act of 1949.

Congress returned to session on September 10, but only had eight legislative days to work on the Farm Bill and other important policy measures before returning home for the fall campaign season. While this means further action on the 2012 Farm Bill will be delayed until later in the year, many in agriculture and the dairy industry believe there will be a strong opportunity to pass the measure once lawmakers return to work following the November general election during the “lame duck” session.

“Now more than ever, it’s important for the producer community to stay involved and active as Congress continues to debate the bill,” says Sam Stone, DFA vice president for government relations.

Stone believes there is still time for Congress to complete the Farm Bill this year if producers continue to express their support and need for the 2012 Farm Bill.

Currently, both chambers of Congress have spent considerable time debating the 2012 Farm Bill. Both the House Agriculture Committee and Senate versions of the bill contain the Dairy Security Act, for which DFA and industry partners have been advocating. The proposed dairy policy changes in the Farm Bill would eliminate costly and outdated federal dairy support programs such as the Dairy Product Price Support and Milk Income Loss Contract programs.

According to Stone, several contributing factors have led to the delay of the 2012 Farm Bill, including potential cuts to feeding programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, and election year politics. With a price tag hovering around $950 billion through the next decade, several lawmakers have expressed concern with the cost of the bill.