Gov't Shutdown Ends, New Farm Bill Back Up For Discussion - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

Gov't Shutdown Ends, New Farm Bill Back Up For Discussion

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MARYLAND – The government shutdown is finally over, but now the senate and house have a new issue to agree on: the farm bill.

The bill originally expired in September 2012, but rather than considering a new bill, congress passed a one year extension. In the new bill, the biggest controversy has to do with legislation regarding food stamps, the major U.S. anti-hunger program. House Republicans are proposing steep cuts in the food stamps, but the Democratic-run senate is looking for other options.

"It's a concern, but that's what is holding things up," says Charles Otto with the Maryland Farm Bureau.

For farmers, postponing the bill can cause some major problems. The bill includes plans to continue the Crop Insurance Program, which essentially provides free coverage to producers who grow the more than 100 insurable crops that can be lost to any natural disaster.

"It's a really good, positive addition to the farm bill," says Joanna Kille, Director of Government Relations for the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

However, the longer the bill is delayed, the longer farmers have to sit in limbo as to what action they can take with their crops.

"We need assurance of what we're going to see the next few years," says Otto. "People really don't know what investments to make that's going to be profitable for them."

With the way the weather has been, Otto says a viable crop insurance program is needed to maintain some protection.

"We had some catastrophic losses from the weather, like the wet season this year, and last year, there was no rain at all. These are some things that we need some protection for."

The delay also postpones funding for a variety of federal programs, which impact more than just farmers. For instance, the "Specialty Crop Block Grant," which funds much of the Maryland Department of Agriculture's activities to help promote fruits and vegetables in Maryland.

"They provide funding for food safety under the grant that we get, it's a really good program," says Kille.

Kille says the bill has a lot of positive aspects, but that congress needs to move forward and get something done within the next few weeks.

"Everything with it being so uncertain it is a concern to a lot of people, it needs to move soon."

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