Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is urging the Republican-led House to vote on a long-term farm policy bill, saying failure to act could leave livestock producers exposed to disasters and other farmers uncertain about the future.
Vilsack, in an interview with The Associated Press, dismissed apparent concerns among House GOP leaders that the half-trillion-dollar farm and food bill could lead to an election-year rebellion among conservatives.
“If they put it up on the board, there would be enough votes,” Vilsack told the AP. “It just needs to get done and there’s no excuse for it not to be done.”
The former Iowa governor said he was particularly concerned about livestock producers now coping with fires in the West and drought in the Midwest. Federal livestock disaster programs ended last September and would not be renewed if the current farm bill, which expires September 30, is extended because Congress is unable to pass a new bill.
The Senate voted 64-35 last month to pass a five-year bill. It ends direct payments to farmers regardless of whether they plant crops, sets up new crop support programs and reduces the federal deficit by $23 billion over the next 10 years.
Obstacles to passage are greater in the House, where conservatives are seeking deeper cuts in the federal food stamp program, which makes up about 80 percent of the nearly $100-billion-a-year spending under the legislation. The Senate bill targets $4 billion in savings from the expected $770 billion in food stamp costs over the next decade.