Farm Bill Needed to Keep Food Prices Stable

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Undoubtedly, lawmakers in Washington, D.C., are faced with a multitude of issues. But 2013 began without a critical piece of legislation moving through federal chambers – a new farm bill.

Instead, as the atmosphere on Capitol Hill and at the White House buzzed about the fiscal cliff, a brief extension of farm bill legislation adopted five years ago was made. The move kept prices of milk, meat and other fresh produce from rising dramatically when North Carolina residents and other families nationwide made their first grocery store trips of 2013.

“If it would have expired, bottom line, all kinds of food prices would have gone up,” says Blake Brown, an agricultural and resource economics professor at N.C. State University.

The farm bill has been discussed for some time as measures have been hammered out within Agriculture Committees from both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate. The American Farm Bureau Federation even staged a rally last summer to drum up support for revamped legislation because the farm bill is so critical to keeping food prices relatively low and stable.

“Extension of the 2008 farm bill, however, is little more than a stop-gap measure,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman says. “We are glad that a measure is in place for most of this year, but we are disappointed that Congress was unable or unwilling to roll a comprehensive five-year farm bill proposal into the fiscal cliff package. Now, it will be up to the new 113th Congress to put a new farm bill in place.”

Rep. Mike McIntyre, who represents North Carolina on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, as well as Rep. Renee Ellmers, who previously represented North Carolina on the committee, are pledging to work ardently on the farm bill since it’s so vital not just to North Carolina farmers, but all residents.

“Without passage of a long-term farm bill, farmers will not have the certainty that they need to control against risks and may opt to grow less – or worse, grow nothing at all – in the face of an uncertain environment for business,” McIntyre says. “This, in turn, would lead to lower supply of food products from agricultural producers and higher prices at the dinner table. I and my colleagues on the Agriculture Committee are working to avoid this scenario by drafting and passing a farm bill that invests in rural America, enhances agricultural practices, reduces the risks of production and saves the tax payers money through needed reforms.”

Ellmers echoes many of the points raised by McIntyre about the urgency for passage of a new farm bill.

“It continues to upset me that the farm bill has not been given the urgency it deserves. I will continue to push for a workable, fiscally-conservative farm bill that incorporates certainty and security into its framework,” Ellmers says. “The farmers of North Carolina deserve action, and I’m proud to be doing what I can to make sure this happens.”

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