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Less than 50 days ahead of an impending deadline that could drastically raise the price of dairy products and leave farmers and ranchers with no financial protection from natural disasters, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill is continuing her fight to pass a bipartisan Farm Bill renewal into law.
For the past two years, the U.S. Senate has passed a renewal of the Farm Bill with a wide bipartisan majority that managed to cut billions of dollars of spending, while protecting America’s farmers, ranchers, and low-income families. The U.S. House failed to act on the comprehensive legislation.
Earlier this year the House—unable to pass a comprehensive bill – split the Farm Bill into two separate pieces and passed them individually, on party-line votes. This has allowed a conference committee to be formed between the Senate and House with the goal of merging the two bills.
McCaskill recently joined with her Republican colleague Jeff Flake of Arizona to urge the conference committee to end wasteful Direct Payments—direct cash transfers of taxpayer dollars to farmers from the government that do not take into account current yields or prices.
“The time we have to provide some certainty to Missouri’s farmers and ranchers is running out,” McCaskill said. “What we need are for some of the inflexible and extreme lawmakers we have in Washington to sit at the table of compromise and finish the deal.”
If a comprehensive bill is not passed by Jan. 1, several provisions relating to dairy products would revert back to rules written in 1949 – which could double the price of dairy products, including milk, overnight.
Many programs, including those designed to protect farmers and ranchers from unexpected natural disasters, have already expired leaving thousands of farmers who have suffered losses in limbo. This has taken on even greater significance after an early-season storm in South Dakota left 100,000 cattle dead last month. Programs that aid in wetlands conservation and some nutrition programs, including the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, have also expired.
Last week McCaskill wrote a letter to members of the Conference Committee urging them to place a cap on the total amount individual farmers can receive of $250,000 – a change that would save taxpayers over $160 million a year. “We believe farm programs should offer support in tough times, but like other economic safety nets, the assistance should have limits,” the letter notes.
McCaskill’s advocacy on the Farm Bill was honored last year at the Golden Triangle Award Ceremony for the National Farmers Union, where she accepted the group’s highest legislative honor awarded to sitting members of Congress in recognition of her leadership working on behalf of Missouri’s rural communities.
– From Sen. McCaskill’s state office