Congress needs to pass farm bill now

A lobbyist for the Minnesota Farmers Union, Thom Peterson, says “the clock is ticking” for farmers. He was quoted in an Associated Press article that appears on today’s front page on the status of the farm bill. He also said that newspapers have been full of stories lately about farmers facing bankruptcy.

Peterson is not exaggerating. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune last week, 84 farms filed for Chapter 12 bankruptcy in Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana during the 12 months that ended in June. The Star Tribune cited an analysis from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

Meanwhile, it’s hard to tell how good of news the so-called tariff truce between China and the U.S. really is for our nation. President Donald Trump touted the agreement after his visit with China President Xi Jingping in Buenos Aires last weekend. Trump’s own administration raised doubts Tuesday about the substance of the trade cease-fire.

During the talks, Trump agreed to delay a scheduled escalation in U.S. Tariffs on many Chinese goods, from 10 percent to 25 percent that had been set to take effect Jan. 1. In return for the postponement in the higher U.S. tariffs, the White House said China agreed to step up its purchases of U.S farm, energy and industrial goods. But economists warn that the two countries are still far apart on the sharpest areas of disagreement.

Farm country received more positive news last week when lawmakers in Washington, D.C., announced an agreement in principle was reached last week on the farm bill. The farm bill governs farm subsidy and other agriculture programs. But by far the largest chunk is the $400 million in spending for the next five years in food stamps for the poor. Apparently, House Republicans dropped their push for stricter work requirements for the program, which was the big sticking point.

Then on Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson told reporters in South St. Paul that he’s optimistic lawmakers can pass the new farm bill next week. Peterson has been heavily involved in the negotiations.

“With any luck it’ll be out, it’ll be passed by the end of next week, Peterson said. “But knowing how things go around here, it may drag into the week after. But I think we are going to get this thing done before end of the year.”

Let’s hope Peterson is right. He doesn’t want this bill to drag on into the new year. And it shouldn’t drag out that long. That would be unproductive. This farm bill needs to be passed sooner than later to give the agriculture industry a much needed boost during unsettling times in farm country.