This week as members of Congress returned to Washington, a coalition of farming, livestock, specialty crop and feed groups, along with a variety of other stakeholders in Farm Bill discussions sent a letter to House leadership urging passage of a new five-year Farm Bill by the end of the year.
The 235 groups that signed the letter said it is of "paramount importance" to the diverse, bipartisan constituencies they represent to have farm policy in place now.
The letter, which was signed by both American Farm Bureau and National Farmers Union and the National Milk Producers Federation, called attention to the drought, which was the largest since the 1930s.
"These historic conditions and their damaging economic effects cannot be ignored," they said.
The groups addressed their letter to House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and cautioned that a temporary extension of current farm policies "would be a short-sighted inadequate solution" that would cripple agriculture with more uncertainty.
The farm and food groups noted that there is still ample time for the House to complete its work on new farm policy, and reconcile any differences with the already-adopted farm bill approved last summer by the Senate.
Failure to pass a new bill before Dec. 31 "will create significant budget uncertainty for the entire agricultural sector, including the rural businesses and lenders whose livelihoods are dependent upon farmers' and livestock producers' economic viability," the letter said.
"If the question in Washington is how to reform government programs and make them more effective, we have an answer - pass the 2012 Farm Bill," said Jerry Kozak, President and CEO of National Milk Producers Federation, the dairy cooperative association that has worked for three years on new dairy programs.
The dairy title of the Farm Bill that was passed by Congress and also approved by the House Agriculture Committee, along with the rest of the bill, saves money compared to the present program, Kozak added.
The dairy reforms in both the Senate and House versions of the Farm Bill will reduce government spending compared to current policies, he said.
The NMPF worked for three years to hammer out dairy policies that evolved into the legislative proposal known as the Dairy Security Act and then were later incorporated into the pending Farm Bill. Kozak said his organization is adamantly opposed to an extension of current policies.
His board of directors earlier this year came out against an extension of the 2008 Farm Bill, saying that an extension of current policy through 2013 does dairy farmers "no real good, and leaves the tough choices about budget priorities unresolved."
Kozak said that if Congress can't generate the necessary effort to pass a new Farm Bill this year, the organization would not support an extension of current dairy programs, and instead would insist on getting the Dairy Security Act included in any extension package of other farm programs.
"We've come too far to acquiesce to another serving of the status quo. Dairy farmers need more than platitudes from Congress - we need action and leadership," he said.