Friday, Neb. Sen. Ben Nelson urged the U.S. House of Representatives to put election year politics aside, and pass its Farm Bill.
The bill is a deficit-reducing measure that also contains disaster aid sorely needed by Nebraska agriculture producers affected by the ongoing severe drought.
"Nebraska needs the Farm Bill now. Unfortunately, it's being held up by election year politics. It's discouraging that House leadership has said it may not bring the Farm Bill to the House floor for action until after the November elections, because the drought is now," said Sen. Nelson.
"Disaster programs from the 2008 Farm Bill have expired. Nebraska's agriculture producers are hurting. House Members need to put what's best for the country at the top of their legislative agenda and set aside their political agenda," said the Sen.
The U.S. Senate gave bipartisan approval to its five-year Farm Bill, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012, on June 21. The House Agriculture Committee approved its version earlier this month, but action by the full House of Representatives has been stalled.
Climate experts are already calling the drought currently affecting the entire State of Neb. along with more than half of the United States, the worst drought since the 1950's.
On July 19, the University of Nebraska Drought Monitor reported that approximately 15,084 square miles of Nebraska territory were experiencing "abnormally to moderately dry" drought conditions, 58,402 square miles were experiencing "severely dry" drought, and nearly 3,868 square miles were experiencing an "extremely dry" drought.
Just over 53 percent of the country is experiencing "moderate" drought conditions, about 25 percent are under "severe or worse" drought conditions, and about 11 percent are experiencing "extreme or worse" drought conditions.
Nelson noted far-reaching consequences of the drought for the Midwest, and warned that prolonging passage of the Farm Bill risks nationwide food inflation.
"Without the help of the drought assistance provisions tied up in the Farm Bill, this ‘bad' situation could quickly get much, much worse," said Nelson. "As conditions continue to decline, the impacts will shift from Nebraska's farmers and livestock producers to our nation's consumers.
"Corn is failing to pollinate, and the fate of the corn crop is far-reaching. A bad harvest means less supply. That means higher prices for commodities and higher prices at the supermarket," said Nelson.
In response to the growing crisis, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has announced significant improvements to disaster relief programs.
The reforms streamlined the process for Secretarial disaster designations, reduced the emergency loan interest rate from 3.75 to 2.24, and reduced the grazing fee for disaster-hit counties authorized to use Conservation Reserve Program lands.
Nelson sent a letter to Secretary Vilsack, noting Nelson's appreciation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) swiftly-implemented drought aid measures, and encouraging continued aid for Nebraska's farmers and livestock producers during the drought.