Vilsack Discusses Farm Bill - News, Weather and Sports for Lincoln, NE;

Vilsack Discusses Farm Bill

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 By: Jenn Hatcher

Lincoln hosted a special speaker Tuesday afternoon, the US Secretary of Agriculture.

Tom Vilsack was speaking at the Rural Futures Conference; a big topic was the farm bill.

"It's a research bill, it's an innovation bill, it's a trade bill, it's a jobs bill, it's a conservation bill, it's a food bill," says Vilsack.

At the conference Vilsack also touched on rural opportunity but he says rural opportunity is tough without a farm bill, which expired with the federal shutdown and lawmakers have not yet established a new bill.

Vilsack says, "This is a bill that provides help for all of America and all of Americans."

Nebraska congressman, Jeff Fortenberry, was in the crowd as Vilsack spoke.

The state representative echoed what the secretary said about the importance of coming to an agreement.

"This is important for America," says Vilsack, "it's not just about support for farmers and snap's assistants."

There are currently two versions of the $500 billion bill.

The house farm bill would cut food stamps by $4 billion annually and change eligibility and work requirements.

The senate bill would cut a tenth of that amount.

Fortenberry says, "The farm bill is a complicated piece of legislation.  It is always difficult to get through congress; you always want to try to construct it in a manner that appeals to both sides of the political isle."

Vilsack says there are serious consequences of not having a farm bill.

For example:

Currently, there's no livestock disaster program to reimburse ranchers after an October blizzard killed tens of thousands of cattle up north.

He hopes a new farm bill would provide retroactive aid.

"When we get a farm bill, i strongly suspect that those provisions will be in the final version and we'll be in a position to try and implement those as quickly as possible," says Vilsack.

Currently, house and senate negotiators are crafting a compromise.

Food stamps benefit did go down as of November 1st.

This was not related to the farm bill but instead, a temporary benefit from the 2009 economic stimulus that boosts food stamp dollars is now no longer be available.


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