As members of Congress return from recess, the Farm Bill is high on the agenda. Without passage of a new farm bill or an extension this week, a host of key policies will revert to the original 1949 farm bill.
U.S. Ag Secretary and former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack says the majority of people aren’t involved in farming and don’t have an understanding of the farm bill and its wide-reaching impact. “They think of it as just about helping farmers out or it’s just a nutrition program,” Vilsack says, “but it’s a jobs bill, it’s an infrastructure bill, it’s a electric-water bill, it’s a trade bill, it’s a research bill, it’s a conservation bill, it’s all of those things.”
He says every Iowan who shops at a grocery store, drinks water or visits a restaurant will feel the impact of the farm bill. Vilsack says one big focus of the bill is on food stamps, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP. “I think there has been an understanding of how to get the policy right,” Vilsack says. “What the SNAP discussion did, it gave us the opportunity to educate people about precisely who gets help from SNAP. It’s not just the struggling families who need food assistance but it’s also producers who are part of the safety net.”
While SNAP was a sticking point for partisan battles last year, it’s believed an agreement has been reached on funding for that program. Without a new farm bill, or an extension, Vilsack warns his agency will start enforcing the dairy program devised in 1949, as all subsequent Farm Bills have been a temporary, five-year updates of that original 1949 law. Among the side effects, it could result in milk prices rising to seven dollars a gallon.