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Following an appearance at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment yesterday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he believes Congress will pass a Farm Bill by the end of the month.
“I’m confident we’re now at a point that we’ve raised the expectation level so high that there’s no going back. They’ve got to get some answers,” Vilsack said in an interview with The Rural Blog.
The biggest sticking points are the dairy provisions in both the House and Senate versions of the bill, which House Speaker John Boehner has called “Soviet style.” House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas has said he is crafting compromise language. UPDATE: For possible provisions, from David Rogers of Politico, click here.
Asked if he thinks Lucas will come up with language that will satisfy Boehner, Vilsack answered crisply, “Yes.” He added that the issues are difficult, but indicated that Department of Agriculture staffers are working with Lucas to draft the language. “I’m just confident in the whole process,” he said. As Vilsack visited Kentucky, the Senate cleared a procedural path for considering the conference committee version of the bill as early as Monday.
Another reason the Farm Bill will pass, Vilsack said, is that it must pass, for many reasons. He said that without a new bill, cotton farmers will face trouble from Brazil on the trade-protection, and he will be forced to follow permanent law on dairy price supports, creating a “milk mess,” a term this interviewer used first in the conversation.
Earlier this week, speaking to the American Farm Bureau Federation, Vilsack said the mess could be avoided by allowing USDA’s Commodity Credit Corp. to buy excess dairy products to stabilize markets, as it can do with other commodities. (Read more)
The Rural Blog is a digest of events, trends, issues, ideas and journalism from and about rural America, from the IRJCI, based at the University of Kentucky. The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues is an extension program for rural journalists and news outlets. It takes no positions on issues and advocates only for strong news coverage, responsible commentary and things that make them possible, such as open-government laws. For more information see www.RuralJournalism.org.