By Michelle Werts
What do food stamps, biofuels and environmental conservation have in common? A little something called the Farm Bill. And when I say little, I’m being facetious: The Farm Bill is a big, expensive, important deal to the tune of $939 billion in government spending and programs.
What is it exactly? To use legislative speak, it’s an omnibus bill pertaining to agriculture and food policy that comes up for debate and renewal every five years. In layman terms, it’s a massive piece of legislation that contains a whole ton of laws that impact a heck of a lot of stuff, including forests and conservation. And for the last eight months, the programs it controls have been operating under an extension, as the last Farm Bill was originally set to expire in October 2012, which is not an ideal situation and needs your support to help rectify.
Right now, as I write this, the House is debating its version of the Farm Bill reauthorization — the Senate passed its version earlier this month — with a vote expected tomorrow. At stake are myriad forest and conservation-related programs. If the House does not vote “yes” for a new Farm Bill, we’ll most likely end up with another extension, which means we’ll continue to be operating billions of dollars’ worth of programs circa 2008. Translation: not as cost-effective or up-to-date as we should be. The new Farm Bill is designed to save money and improve the programs under its purview, which means strengthened conservation programs.
So head to our Action Center and send our pre-written letter to your congressional member asking him or her to vote “yes” on the Farm Bill reauthorization, as this is the crucial next step in getting a new Farm Bill approved. Once the House has approved its version, conferencing can begin, where the two houses negotiate about the differences in the two bills and come up with a final version to go before President Obama.