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Congress passes Farm bill

The legislation is intended to provide support and certainty for farmers and ranchers throughout the U.S.


After attempts to pass a farm bill stalled last year, Congress recently approved the Agricultural Act of 2014.

The legislation is designed to provide certainty for farmers and ranchers over the next five years and includes provisions intended to support rural communities.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack praised the bill, saying it will allow the proud men and women who feed millions around the world to invest confidently in the future.

“This legislation is important to the entire nation,” he said.

The farm bill covers a variety of ground with provisions addressing everything from forest road regulations and Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) funding to specialty crop research and improved policies for organic farmers.

Republican Greg Walden, who represents Oregon’s Second Congressional District, was encouraged by several facets of the bill.

“This legislation contains strong support for vital agriculture research that fights disease and pests in everything from onions to pears to potatoes,” he said. “It permanently reauthorizes and provides retroactive disaster funding for livestock producers, like those who lost grazing land and livestock to fires across eastern and southern Oregon.”

Like Walden, Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley touted the disaster funding provision and both lawmakers highlighted another part of the bill that fully funds PILT payments to Oregon counties through the remainder of this year.

“Some of the most cash-strapped counties will get a lifeline from the extension of PILT,” Merkley said.

Crook County is one such county and Judge Mike McCabe agreed that additional funding will help the county.

“It helps us from the standpoint that it is totally discretionary funding,” he said of the PILT. “We can use it for the Humane Society or build a 4-H building — do anything we want with that particular funding and not have any strings attached to it. We can sure use anything we can get.”

While Merkley and Walden agreed on with several parts of the bill, they disagreed on a provision to reduce funding for the food stamp program. Walden praised the reform-minded legislation, saying it will reduce fraud in the program and cut spending by $16 billion.

Merkley, by contrast identified the food stamp change as his primary concern with the bill.

“Cutting programs that help keep food on the table is the wrong approach,” he said.

Democratic Senator Ron Wyden made a point of praising the bill as well. He singled out a farm-to-school provision he authored that establishes a competitive pilot program with up to eight demonstration projects representing different regions across the county including the Pacific Northwest.

Wyden wrote another provision that he said reaffirms the determination by both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Supreme Court that forest roads and other silviculture activities are not open to more litigation over water discharge permits under the Clean Water Act.

“The farm bill provides certainty and a strong safety net for the agricultural community for the next five years,” he concluded.

Locally, Mylen Bohle, area extension agronomist for OSU Extension Service, praised the passage of the farm bill. While he has yet to comb through the bill and identify specifically how the legislation will affect the Crook County agriculture community, he noted that the passage of the bill itself is encouraging news for local farmers and ranchers.

“It gives some certainty for the next five years,” he stressed. “Everybody is on the same playing field now and can be able to have a game plan and a business plan to decide how you are going to make it all work,” Bohle said.




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