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Farm Bill Still In Limbo

December 31, 2012, 10:29 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

Farm Bill Still In Limbo

Farmers and ranchers are still uncertain of a farm bill’s future heading into the new year.

The House and Senate Agriculture Committees agreed to a one-year extension of the 2008 farm bill. But neither chamber has voted on that plan and lawmakers are still reportedly working on potential changes.

Some local farmers, including South Dakota Farmers Union President Doug Sombke, say a one year extension is not long enough.

"The fact of the matter that we're not going to see a five-year bill is disheartening," Sombke said.

Sombke has his opinions about what should be included in a farm bill. But his big concern at this point is not knowing what kind of federal policy will govern farming looking into the future.

"How do you make a business plan if you don't know what your business is going to be? That’s about as simple as you can put it," Sombke said.

Sombke has heard plenty of farm bill possibilities in recent days ranging from a 30-day extension of the 2008 version to a year-long extension. He says he hasn’t been pleased with any of those temporary proposals.

The farm bill covers more than livestock and crops. A bulk of it covers nutrition programs such as food stamps. But speaking on the farming side, Sombke says there are a lot of big decisions producers need to make. That’s the reason he wants more certainty.

"You've got to know pretty much 18 months ahead of time," Sombke said. "So a year fix doesn't really fix anything. It just kicks the can down the road."

During that time, Sombke argues, farmers will be in their fields and have to make big decisions. That's why he’s asking those in Washington to do the same.

"Congress just needs to really get to work. That's really the issue," Sombke said.

He argues a farm bill should take priority because it's connected to the country's food supply.

The Senate passed a farm bill earlier this year.

The House Agriculture Committee passed a version of the bill but it didn't make it to the floor for a vote. One point of tension has been how much money should go toward food stamps.

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