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Sep 19, 2012 7:20 PM by Jenise Fernandez

Farm Bill Stalled; Farmers Waiting

Because of disagreements in Washington, the future for farmers is in limbo. Right now-- the farm bill is stalled in the house. Legislators have until the end of the month to make a decision. The farm bill is meant to protect and assist farmers in case they're hit by disaster, like a hurricane or drought. The first farm bill was drafted in the 1930s. Congress debates and passes one every 5 years. In June, the Senate passed the bill with almost two-thirds of support. A separate version passed the House Agriculture Committee in July. House leaders have not yet scheduled a vote.

Only a small percentage of the bill actually deals with agriculture, the issues legislators have, have nothing to do with farmers.Food stamps make up roughly 80 percent of the costs in both versions of the farm bill. That's where the issue lies, with Democrats not wanting to make any cuts and Republicans wanting to cut more. Sugar cane farmer and President of the Lafayette Farmers Bureau, Chad Hanks says, farmers are stuck in the middle.

"We need to move forward in this session in this year. It's imperative because looking into budget issues in 2013, it's only going to get worse," said Hanks.

Hanks says on the agriculture side, they were forced to cut $20 million, a task he calls "painful." But the cuts were made, now farmers are waiting.

"We've delivered what we asked to deliver and we feel its in the best interest of ag to push this bill forward," he added.

Without the farm bill, hanks says farmers won't have a safety net, making it difficult for farmers to make business plans and ask for loans.

"American ag has been carrying the U.S. economy. I think Washintong needs to draft this because they owe it to ag," he said.

Congressmen Jeff Landry and Charles Boustany blame the election year. Both say leaders in Washington are more focused on themselves.

"We need to put something into place until we can complete it, or vote on the new farm bill that came out of committee," said Boustany.

"This bill is not just important to our state, but every state. The food on our shelves is provided by our farmers," said Landry.

 

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