For two years we have been expecting a farm bill. We have nothing yet.

If you have been watching Congressional action around the farm bill as if it were a reality TV show, it has been very entertaining. There is a set cast of characters, and we think we know how they fit in, what roles they play, who really calls the shots. But every now and then you find out that the REALLY big dog is actually somebody else. The characters are divided between The House and The Senate, each of which is made up of two rival gangs. And then there is The Whitehouse, but it is hard to figure out whether it is really a part of the action or not. And it seems like there is a plot line that everyone is sort of following, but every now and then, just when you are starting to lose interest, something totally unexpected happens that makes you jump up from your recliner and exclaim, “Did you see that?”

But if you have been watching as if Congressional action around the farm bill is actually reality, you may be tearing your hair.

And if, like most of your fellow American citizens, you haven’t been watching Congressional farm bill action at all, it may be time to start paying attention.

Our country, rural and urban, needs a full and fair farm bill. Not a delay. Not an extension. Not a partial farm bill. Not a farm bill that supports some constituents and leaves others hurting.

A good farm bill will include all titles including the Nutrition Title. It will support conservation programs; commodity and crop insurance reforms; programs for beginning, socially disadvantaged, tribal, women and veteran farmers; rural economic development and job creation, including renewable energy projects; fruit and vegetable production and organic farmers and ranchers; and farmers’ markets, healthy food access, and community food and urban agriculture projects.

Many of us think that food and access to food, and the farms and farmers that grow it, are central, basic to life. Important even. Congress should be able to get a bill passed, right? Maybe not a Dream Bill, but a full bill that is fair. Hellooo! Apparently not everyone thinks that way. The farm bill just doesn’t seem that important to Congress right now.

The farm bill seems to be caught in the middle of a partisan power play. As they play chicken around shutting down the government, and the debt ceiling, the farm bill seems to be just one more token in the game.

Congress needs our help now. It is not possible to tell what the next plot turns will be, what new  surprises will shock us next, what new characters may take leading roles. But your Congressional representatives in both the House and Senate need to hear that we need a full and fair farm bill now! Two years is long enough without a farm bill. (See more talking points at National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition action page.)

The action changes daily. Keep up to date on farm bill action through the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition blog. Subscribe to the RSS feed from that website.

There will come times when messages more specific than “We need a full and fair farm bill now!” will be appropriate for our Congressional representatives. And there will be times when the target audience will be more specific than “everyone in Congress”. But the opportunities may be brief. Things may move fast. You can subscribe for action alerts from the NSAC action site (above) or from the Southern SAWG “Ag Policy” page.

Jim Lukens