Aug 1, 2012 9:00 PM by Jacqui Heinrich

Farm bill debate leaves Colorado's fate undecided

Colorado is thirsty: the worst drought in decades is drying out much of the United States, with Colorado's plains taking the hardest hit.

With the 2012 Farm Bill still up in the air at the nation's capitol, local ranchers and farmers are questioning if they can afford to go on. A solution passed in the U.S. Senate and House Agricultural Committee would provide relief to those farmers, cut spending, and reduce the deficit...but that bill may never reach President Obama's desk since it is being held up in the U.S. House of Representatives.

House Republicans like Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-5) say passing the bill as it exists now is a bad plan. Lamborn told News 5, "I cannot support the Senate Farm Bill because it just continues to expand the size of government with very little attempt at meaningful reform." He's talking about the portion of funding in the bill dedicated to the food stamp program-- something many Republicans want to see slashed further before a bill is passed.

Some House representatives have suggested a one-year extension of the current 2008 Farm Bill-- which expires this year-- to give legislators more time to figure out details.

Colorado senators say this bill can't wait for a food stamp debate since our agricultural industry is suffering. They're urging the House to also pass the proposed 5 year Farm Bill now, with Senator Mark Udall saying, "Passing the Senate farm bill is the single best thing lawmakers can do provide relief and certainty to farmers and ranchers suffering from drought." In an interview with News 5, Udall said farmers can't make decisions on a one-year basis, and need a five year plan for planning purposes. "They can plan, they can decide what crops they're going to plant, their bankers are going to be more certain of what the future holds...In the end the answer is it's about certainty."

Legislators are working toward a decision before the House goes into recess in August, but a fast decision on the bill is important to everyone in Colorado. Uncertainty for farmers and ranchers means an increase in food prices, and more money out of the average Coloradoan's pocket to put food on the table.

Legal experts say House Republicans may try to delay a vote on the Farm Bill since this is an election year, and they could be criticized by conservatives for approving big spending on farms, and hammered by liberals for cutting funding for school lunches and food stamp programs.

To see the full text of S. 3240, the version of the Farm Bill passed in the Senate, click here.




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