Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack believes Congress can approve a new farm bill before the current law expires in September. He says it’s clear the Senate Ag Committee plans to begin to mark up its version of the legislation this month. As such - he expects the full Senate will vote on the bill by early summer. A bill he believes will continue federal support for crop insurance and offer some type of safety net program to supplement crop insurance revenue.
Vilsack would also like to see some of the energy programs that expire with the current law restored in the Senate bill. He hopes to see continued commitment to the Rural Energy for America Program - or REAP - which offers grants and loans to farmers for on-farm renewable energy generation and energy efficiency. The program has also been used to help pay for the installation of blender pumps. Vilsack believes the Biomass Crop Assistance Program will be structured differently.
The Senate farm bill draft - according to Vilsack - will likely simplify conservation programs - giving USDA more flexibility to tailor programs to local needs. The Secretary actually likes that approach and would like to see it applied to the rest of the farm bill - giving USDA the capacity to be creative.