Eddie Mitchell is joining farmers from across the nation next week in an effort to influence the 2018 Farm Bill now stalled in Congress.
Mitchell, a Monroe County farmer and part-time real estate agent, is a member of the Missouri Farmers Union, which is an affiliate of the National Farmers Union. He is joining five other Missouri farmers in Washington.
“We have some serious concerns about the farm bill,” Mitchell said. “There are issues that will impact family farms.”
The contents of the complicated farm bill, which will spend upward of $430 billion over the next five years, has major impact on family farm operations, Mitchell said.
The farm bill is negotiated every five years. And while no farm bill has ever been simple to pass; the 2018 version seems particularly complicated. The House and Senate versions vary widely. The Senate version of the bill passed with overwhelming 86-to-11 bi-partisan vote, while the House version was passed along a strict party line vote, the first time that has happened in the history of the bill.
A House-Senate conference committee is now trying to sort out the difference between the two houses of Congress. They are working to beat a Sept. 30 deadline when the current farm bill expires.
Thomas Coudron, president of the Missouri Farmers Union, a retired United States Department of Agriculture manager, says that decision-makers are out-of-touch with family farmers.
“After 37 years with USDA I understand decisions being made seemingly too distant from the field,” he said.
The American Farm Bureau and the National Farmers Union, which are often at odds over farm policy, issued a strong joint statement last week calling for swift action from Congress to pass the farm bill.
The groups said that farm income is at the lowest levels, creating an urgent need for the bill. Everything from commodity price supports to childhood nutrition, soil and water conservation, trade promotion and more depend on swift passage.
"America’s farmers and ranchers persevere even in the toughest times, but the farm economy has gone from bad to worse,” Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall said. “Tariffs and stagnant global demand for commodities have left the agriculture economy in the worst shape we have seen since the farm crisis of the 1980s”
Said Farmers Union President Roger Johnson: “Family farmers and ranchers are in need of certainty right now. Low farm prices due to international trade disruptions, commodity market oversupply, and domestic policy uncertainty are putting significant financial strain on farmers. If Congress is to provide real relief and certainty to those who feed, clothe and fuel our nation, as well as continue the important environmental sustainability work and diverse market promotion of past farm bills, they need to pass a strong farm bill before Sept. 30.”