Farmers and Hungry Families Wait for Help as Congress Dithers on Farm Bill

Lawmakers have one month left to pass the all-important 2012 Farm Bill.

Drought 2012 Farm Bill
Delbert Craig (L) chats with Karis Gutter of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as he shows him the drought damage to the pasture on his farm, July 26, 2012, near Goreville, Illinois. (Photo: Getty Images)
Clare Leschin-Hoar's stories on seafood and food politics have appeared in Scientific American, Eating Well and elsewhere.

As if this summer’s devastating drought and massive livestock sell-off wasn’t hard enough on farmers, growers trying to figure out how much winter wheat to plant this fall are going to have to wing it. 

Producers who need a credit line with their local bank to purchase seeds, fertilizer, or equipment are probably going to be doing some nail biting of their own.

And families that count on the nation’s food stamp program, known as SNAP, to assist them in keeping enough food on the table are looking at a heaping serving of uncertainty instead.

Why?

Because lawmakers who left for their August breaks to campaign back home or to attend their party’s conventions left one of the most critical pieces of legislation unfinished: the 2012 Farm Bill.

RELATED: GOP Farm Bill Would Slash Funds for Hungry Americans and Organic Farmers

And time is running out. We’re down to less than five weeks before the current Farm Bill expires on September 30.

Lawmakers return to work September 10, but they’re only in session a mere eight days. October’s schedule is even lighter, with only five days in session. After that, all eyes are on the November election. Many worry lack of action on Capitol Hill will result in turmoil for an industry that provides one in every 12 American jobs.

Pressure to act on the 2012 Farm Bill is coming from all sides of the industry.

A newly formed group called Farm Bill Now, whose members include the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the American Soybean Association, the United Egg Producers, and others, are calling lawmakers to act, and are planning a rally at the U.S. Capitol on September 12.

“We are pushing Congress to get it done in September,” Dana Peterson, chief executive officer of the National Association of Wheat Growers, told Reuters. “But the likelihood of that is pretty slim.”

The organic side of the industry is calling for passage of the Farm Bill as well.

“All farmers need this,” Maureen Wilmot, Executive Director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation, tells TakePart. “Organic farmers. Conventional farmers. Can it happen in eight days? I don’t know, but we're mobilizing folks to let their representatives know how essential passing the Farm Bill is to farmers in this country.”

Indeed, inaction won't just impact farmers trying to figure out how much seed to order, it will also inevitably impact your own wallet.

“Officials at the federal Department of Agriculture have also been analyzing what the expiration of the farm bill would mean,” writes J.T. Rushing in The Gazette. “One predicted it ‘would lead to a cascade of disruptive changes in the agricultural sector that would impact farmers and lead to higher prices for consumers on the grocery store shelves.’ ”

More on the Farm Bill:

• GOP Farm Bill Would Slash Funds for Hungry Americans and Organic Farmers

• Can Elmo and the Gang Make a Dent in Childhood Hunger?

• What Sneaky Secret Is Hiding in the Farm Bill?

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