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View From the Hill: In the meantime

By Grace Boatright, National Grange View From the Hill Blog (7/31/12)e

  AUGUST 1, 2012 --

As suspected, the House is now considering an extension for the 2008 Farm Bill, rather than fully take up the 2012 Farm Bill. In my humble opinion, extensions are just a lame way of saying “we’re not really sure how to confront this problem and nobody is in the mood to discuss it right now, so we’re going to put it off until we absolutely have to confront it.” But, whether I like it or not, that’s where we’re at again. The House wants to pass an extension before August recess, and has intensions to bring that up for a vote this week. (Frankly, if they channeled all the time and energy they’re spending on passing the extension into passing the actual Farm Bill, it might be over already…but I digress.)

Whether they pass this extension or not, the USDA has already taken some action to help alleviate this drought-induced agony being felt by farmers and ranchers all over the country. I think you guys should be aware of these just in case you need to take advantage of these newly proposed measures.

For starters, the USDA has cut the interest rates on emergency loans to farmers to 2.25%, down from its usual 3.75%. Secretary Vilsack has also asked crop insurers to grant farmers some additional time to pay their premiums, and not to charge penalty fees in the meantime. Crop insurers have seemed very eager to comply with the Secretary’s request.

The USDA has also released thousands of CRP acres in several states for emergency grazing and haying. Everyone is feeling the effects of this drought, however, livestock ranchers are being hit especially hard. Thanks to the drought, the price of grain and feed has risen significantly; so many ranchers can no longer afford to feed their cattle. Also, while most ranchers do have insurance, in times of drought their insurance is far less thorough than it is for crop growers.

Secretary Vilsack has also announced changes to current programs that pay farmers to grow hay in their fields. If you currently have a surplus of hay, you might participate in this program by contacting the USDA to let them know.

Of course, I’m sure there is more red tape involved with these programs than I am aware of, and I would suggest doing your homework before you enroll in anything. However, desperate times call for desperate measures, and in this drought, I know many people could use all the help they can get.

Good luck to everybody.

-Grace Boatright
National Grange Legislative Director

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