Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urged House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican, to schedule floor time for the new farm bill, saying U.S. producers need to know the shape of programs that support them.
“I would ask him to take his finger off the pause button so the rest of us don’t have to hit the panic button,” Vilsack said today at a Washington meeting of land-grant universities. Farmers “need that certainty,” he said.
The Senate passed a bill last week covering farm and food aid that would cut spending by $23.6 billion over 10 years, mostly by replacing a direct-payment program for major crops with a revenue guarantee. The House has yet to draft its version.
House Republican leaders last week delayed plans for the agriculture committee to work on the farm-bill draft until after July 4. The current law expires Sept. 30.
Efforts to obtain a response from Cantor to Vilack’s appeal were unsuccessful.
Record U.S. farm profits and food-stamp spending are making the five-year reauthorization of USDA programs a target for budget cutters. Net farm income reached an all-time high of $98.1 billion in 2011 and this year will be $91.7 billion, the second-highest, the USDA said in February. Funding for food stamps reached a record $75.7 billion last year, double the level of four years earlier.
Vilsack spoke at a meeting of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, which is marking the sesquicentennial of the Morrill Act, the 1862 law signed by President Abraham Lincoln that established the U.S. land-grant university system.
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