U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is urging the U.S. House and Senate Ag Committees to get a Farm Bill ready. Once created, Vilsack says that legislation could be attached to any agreement to avoid the fall off the “fiscal cliff” of automatic tax hikes and budget cuts which loom on January 1st.
“That would provide a vehicle for the passage of a food, farm and jobs bill,” Vilsack says. “In order for that to happen, they could not be in a situation where they would ask folks to wait while they crafted and drafted whatever compromises they could reach. They need to do that work now so that when and if there’s a resolution to the fiscal cliff, the farm legislation could be attached to it without delay.”
Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, says it will take a lot of work to get a new Farm Bill ready for the upcoming growing season. “We will do everything we can to move heaven and earth,” Vilsack says. “Once Congress does its job, we will do our job in a timely way. It obviously depends on at what point in time they ultimately get their work done.”
The automatic budget cuts that will come with the new year will impact practically every single U.S.D.A. program, what Vilsack says would be a disaster. “That gives me no capacity to manage,” he says. “It’s eight-and-a-half or eight-point-seven percent, whatever it is, across the board, virtually every line item. You can’t transfer. The only way you’re going to deal with it is by reductions in force and that is extraordinarily cumbersome.”
Without action by Congress, a series of 500-billion dollars in tax increases and 200-billion in budget cuts will automatically take effect on or around the first day of January, a leap some analysts fear could prompt another recession.