U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack is using the circumstances surrounding the drought – which he says is the most serious situation we’ve had probably in a quarter century – to call for passage of a new farm bill that includes disaster assistance. The Secretary has noted several times that USDA is using all its administrative powers to help the farmers and ranchers impacted by the drought – but that it’s limited because the disaster programs included in the 2008 Farm Bill have already expired. National Corn Growers Association Vice President Pam Johnson says the drought is a wake-up call and a visible reminder of why the farm bill is written. She says it just needs to be done. American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman agrees. He says providing farmers with improved risk management tools is a core principle in the House and Senate versions of the pending farm bill. Stallman says both contain new tools that will assist farmers – but also restore several expired provisions that would help livestock producers manage weather-related risks.
Stallman says the widespread drought has imposed stress on people, crops and livestock – but the full impact on the nation won’t be known for several months. He says the impact on the food supply and food prices aren’t yet known. The true extent of the damage to the corn crop won’t be known until harvest is completed. Stallman says the August crop report from USDA – which will include actual in-the-field surveys – will provide a clearer picture. Yet if conditions don’t improve – he says the biggest impact will come in the next crop year. While data suggests most of the corn and other row crops in the drought-stricken regions are covered by crop insurance – Stallman says it’s often a different story for producers of other crops. He says that’s why Farm Bureau called for a strengthened federal crop insurance program. According to Stallman – Farm Bureau remains hopeful congressional leaders will expedite their work on the vital legislation called the farm bill.