December 30th, 2012
09:14 AM ET
10 years ago

Vilsack: Economy will suffer without farm bill

Update 4:30 p.m. ET: Following increased pressure to pass farm legislation by the end of the year, Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow said Sunday that the House and Senate have developed a short-term farm bill extension to prevent dairy prices from soaring in the new year.

The bill "also prevents eventual damage to our entire agriculture economy," Stabenow, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, said in a statement.

Rep. Frank Lucas, Stabenow's Republican counterpart in the House, said the extension would last one year, but GOP leadership aides tell CNN there has been no decision on whether to bring the stopgap measure for a vote by January 1.

(CNN) – While Congress faces escalating pressure to avoid the fiscal cliff, a key Cabinet member is issuing dire warnings for the economy if Washington fails to immediately act on other vital legislation waiting in the wings.

"It is unconscionable that we don't have a farm bill," U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in an interview that aired Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union." "This is just historic."

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The five-year farm bill, which aids farmers with price protections and subsidies, expired on September 30 after the House faced GOP division over extending the bill. Some conservative lawmakers said the newer version didn't go far enough in reform, while others said the price tag was too high, especially in provisions dealing with food stamps.

House Speaker John Boehner said in September that the chamber would readdress the issue after the election.

The recent expiration doesn't affect existing federal support for the remainder of 2012, but Vilsack cautioned that Americans could see stark changes come 2013.

"When you consider what rural America does: It provides most of the food, a lot of the water, almost all of the energy and fuel as well as many, many jobs connected to what happens in rural areas," Vilsack told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley.

Consumers, for example, could see a sharp increase in the price of milk–almost double current prices–if Congress doesn't act by January 1, when the dairy subsidy expires, or shortly thereafter, Vilsack said.

The reason: If a new bill isn't passed or the most recent one extended, the formula for calculating the price the government pays for dairy products defaults back to a 1949 statute. Under that formula, the government would be forced to buy milk at twice today's price - driving up the cost for everyone, CNNMoney reports.

The absence of farm legislation will also hurt agricultural exports, farmers markets, hunting grounds and farming families, Vilsack added. "Across the board, in virtually every aspect of our economy and society, there is an impact."

And Vilsack, who previously served two terms as Iowa governor, plans to see it through. Asked if he intends to stay on during President Barack Obama's second term, he said he's "absolutely" happy to keep his job if he can.

"I'm here as long as the president's pleased with my service. At least that's what the certificate says," he said. "I've got a great job and I'm privileged and honored to have it."

Vilsack's wife, Christie, challenged incumbent Rep. Steve King for his Iowa seat this year but failed to defeat the longtime Republican congressman. King was recently chosen to chair a House subcommittee that has oversight power over the Agriculture Department.

- CNN's Alan Silverleib and CNNMoney's Steve Hargreaves contributed to this report.

Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.

soundoff (49 Responses)
  1. Anonymous


    when he says "rural America" what he means is giant agribusiness

    You are correct, Charlotte. Agribusiness IS rural America. Mom and Pop farms have become as existent as Mom and Pop grocery outlets. America is nothing more than one big mega corporation after another.

    December 30, 2012 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  2. George in PA

    In the 2012 election, Obama painted the Republicans as the 1% who would not accept higher taxes on the rich. Mitt Romney was the perfect poster boy for that image. Now the Republicans are trying to have Obama's name attached to any pain that's coming to the public in 2013. Don't expect compromise,concilliation, or enlightenment.

    December 30, 2012 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  3. guest

    If all subsides for oil and farming suddenly ended today, millions would be unable to buy their daily required intake of calories, and driving a vehicle would be reserved for the elite. Its unfortunate that the very subsidies that elicit negative emotions provide much needed relief in the form of artificially low prices on certain goods. This mainly benefits those with low income, but can also be a benefit to middle income families suffering from a weak economy. While I do believe that we should pay fair market value for all goods, the sudden removal of these subsidies would send a shockwave through the economy. This would cause unnecessary suffering on a large scale, and once again the only ones insulted from this would be the elite.

    December 30, 2012 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  4. steve

    I am a third generation farmer in Oklahoma. My great grandfather settled this land in 1889, my grand father survived the dust bowel, and my father expanded to other related business as have I.
    As for the Farm Subsidy programs, the are a joke, they pay farmers to NOT grow certain crops, or control how much you can grow per acre to get these funds. My grandfather, father, nor I have ever taken a penny of government subsidy's for that reason alone. We farm, wheat, hay, corn, and raise beef cattle, and sell at market prices and demand. We subsidies our farm with a small trucking company that caters to the oil, agriculture, and food industries....Are we wealthy, Not by a long shot!
    This farm bill is a joke, created by progressive democrats in the 1940's as Price Protections for the few, only!

    December 30, 2012 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  5. Laury

    CJ, I agree with you 100%

    December 30, 2012 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  6. Pete

    Wait till you average Joes out there start paying $8-9 gallon milk,$3-5 dozen for eggs then you'll want to hang your local rep..Remember too, months ago when Reid and democrates begged republicans to stay and vote on a drought relief bill for farmers and republicans declined,they'll learn how much they're needed when all these arrogent idiots are thrown out after midterms won't they!!The republican party with its obstructive ways with soon be extinct if they don't work with this president,they have no leverage and after losing the election by a large margain they'd know better but as usual their arrogence always overshadows their ignorence doesn't it!!

    December 30, 2012 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  7. Gib brown

    What on earth does the farm bill have to do with energy and water? If he ,eans ethanol, then what could he possibly mean when he says 'nearly all of our energy'? This is the kind of Democratic 'math' that perpetuates the myth that farmers need help.

    December 30, 2012 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  8. EarlS

    The problem we have now with the Farm Bill is that the US taxpayer ends up subsidizing huge corporate farms. Also, we are subsidizing some very wealthy families who should not be subsidized. Case in point- a select number of wealthy sugar families in Florida. Thanks to the strong sugar lobbyists we pay really high tariffs for sugar produced in this country. This is one reason why candy companies such as Hershey moved to Mexico; the cost of sugar is at least 50% less in Mexico than it is here. This is also one of the main reasons that the Hostess company was having problems with cash flows.

    December 30, 2012 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  9. Renee Marie Jones

    Hey. The economy will suffer massive dislocation unless the government gives me one million dollars.

    That works for CEOs or anyone else who can turn around and contribute (i.e. bribe) to congressional campaigns. For the rest of us, we have to work. I suggest the big farm CEOs do the same.

    December 30, 2012 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  10. mcwsunshine

    Penguin: Big difference between farm subsidies and welfare! Farmers are some of the most hard-working people in the nation and welfare recipients?????

    December 30, 2012 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  11. btguy

    as a farmer i hope it does run out, the market will do what it needs to to see that we are ok but when the prices we can charge double or more, that will make farmers markets extremely lucrative for us. its everyone else that gets hurt by skyrocketing food prices.

    December 30, 2012 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  12. sqeptiq

    I would like to hear Grover Norquist explain giant ag subsidies as a way to reduce the size of government .

    December 30, 2012 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  13. Jane

    STOP electing people who thinks that COMPROMISE is a dirty word......

    December 30, 2012 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  14. Jimh77

    Boehner once again wants to cut food stamps to the poor. When he get done cutting out all of what the poor get, plus these food stamps, how does he expect them to survive on if they don't eat well now? While he can eat all he wants and his caviar and expensive wines. While WE are entitling him with hundred thousand + pay and entitlements of health care and retirement. He should give those up.

    December 30, 2012 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  15. threedownonetogo

    It's funny how people here are defending subsidies. Look at the milk subsidy. Milk is more expensive because the government buys milk to reduce supply if the price drops below a certain level. This means milk is artificially more expensive than it should be because we use tax payer dollars to buy milk to make it more expensive for consumers. This is a huge net loss for the economy. The money the gov't spends destroying milk and the money consumers have to spend on artificially expensive milk could be used elsewhere. Our food is therefore more expensive because of the government which especially hurts the poor which we then subsidize with food stamps!

    December 30, 2012 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  16. Richard Miller

    Solution: Send your milk bill to your elected "representatives" in Washington and demand that they pay for the milk. The small farmer needs the help, not the mega corp people that buy these "representatives"

    December 30, 2012 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  17. taxedmore

    I had a small business – the government didn't pay my insurance or any of my other bills. I have all the respect for the farmers but I shouldn't have to subsidize them. I would rather pay fair market prices for food.

    December 30, 2012 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  18. Country Concerned

    STOP THE DOOMSDAY CRAP! Today's farmer works about 60 days a year actively engaged in farming, pays little to no taxes, and is a multi-millionaire at taxpayer expense. With regard to milk prices, that was a political move 20 years ago forcing taxpayers to pay billions of dollars in the infamous dairy buyout program that did nothing more than create mega-dairies toward the East and West to capitalize on the dairy subsidy based on the distance from Eau Claire, Wisconsin that has been on the books since 1931. We still truck all milk to Wisconsin, right, Nodda. Since that move dairy cattle can barely survive due to reduced genetics and disease that runs throught the dairy herd, antibiotics is a way of life in today's dairy herd. Land prices are totally out of control in a further effort to prevent competition in the ag sector. Thank you USDA, one of the most corrupt groups in government.

    December 30, 2012 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  19. empresstrudy

    Good. Either kill America or make it Stalinist Russia.

    December 30, 2012 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  20. abmri60

    This means we could be paying $ 6 to $ 8 Dollars for a gallon of milk.

    December 30, 2012 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  21. Tom

    There is no reason, to subsidize farming. Remove subsidies and taxes incentives, and the market will sort it out. Milk will cost whatever it costs to produce milk.

    December 30, 2012 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  22. PetePete1

    Seems like a no brain-er to pass to the farm bill,why would the Gov.WANT to pay double?This Congress we have is incompetent and a derelict of duty,but you had your chance to fire them ALL America but you choose status quo part 2 right down from Obama to the guy that cleans up the dog poop off the white house lawn,now deal with it!I.m thankful my little farm is self sufficient.

    December 30, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  23. Spookypaws

    I guess I will just stop drinking milk then and switch to almond, rice or soy milk. It's healthier for you anyway....

    December 30, 2012 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  24. snowdogg

    to Steve...

    "My grandfather, father, nor I have ever taken a penny of government subsidy"

    Thank you!

    December 30, 2012 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
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