MISSOULA – Montana farmers and ranchers are watching closely as Congress gets back to work.
While the so-called “fiscal cliff” is garnering the most attention, an expired farm bill is also still sitting on the “to-do” list.
Chuck Hassebrook, executive director of the Center for Rural Affairs, says rumors have been flying about the timing of a final bill, and he’s optimistic.
“There’s still a chance that it will be done before the end of the year. The key issue here is not just when it gets done, but that it gets done well.”
Hassebrook notes key differences in the versions passed by the House and Senate, and calls the Senate version more friendly to Montana and other rural states.
“The Senate bill invests in small business development in rural America; the House bill does not. And the Senate bill invests more in beginning farmer programs. So, doing the farm bill right is every bit as important as getting it done soon.”
Even though the bill expired, funding is being continued for federal crop insurance and the food stamp program, Hassebrook says, but some conservation programs are in limbo, as well as disaster programs, and funding was severely limited for rural entrepreneurship initiatives.