The prospects of getting a farm bill before the end of this year are questionable at best. Doug O’Brien, USDA Acting Undersecretary for Rural Development wants to point out that the farm bill is about much more than farming or food stamps:
“What the farm bill means for rural development is some critical policy that will help people in rural America be able to make some choices about their business and the future of their community. The farm bill has resources, it has dollars and programs including the value added producer grant program that helps farmers add value to their commodities. It also has reforms to make it easier for the Federal Government to help and support what folks want to do.”
Another segment of agriculture that could be affected by the continued delay in the farm bill according to O’Brien is the local food movement:
“Local food is one of the fastest growing segments in US agriculture. Consumer demand has risen from $4 billion in 2002 to over $7 billion in 2012. We at USDA have used programs and resources that Congress has provided us to support small businesses and communities and help them take advantage of those who want to buy local. Without the farm bill it will make it more difficult. “
And O’Brien points out that some segments of the ag economy that are white-hot right now could lose momentum with continued delays in the farm bill:
“The last thing we want to do is slow down the areas where we see growth right now. Certain parts of the country are still working their way out of economic doldrums of the past few years. There are some very bright spots in the economy, including production agriculture, exports, local foods, renewable energy.”
Doug O’Brien, Acting Deputy Undersecretary for Rural Development for USDA.