The small steps towards a new farm bill made by Congress in recent days haven’t been a shield from commodity and conservation advocacy groups’ collective disgust and ire.

"Congress has allowed the federal farm bill to expire, ending the legal authorization for the federal government to administer our nation's most basic and important farm programs which help farmers reduce costs and protect the environment on millions of acres of farmland, forests and rangeland across the United States,” said Andrew McElwaine, president of the American Farmland Trust. "On top of this, Congress has also shutdown the federal government and furloughed thousands of agriculture-related agency employees denying family farmers the technical assistance and hands-on help they need to run their businesses and protect farmland.

"One of these failures would be a hardship, but manageable if it did not last long. Taken together, the lack of action on these critical issues mean agricultural programs are not only without people to administer them, but they are now without authorization to even exist.

"The American Farmland Trust believes the lack of action is causing significant confusion in the farm economy, the nation's largest industry, and uncertainty among farmers who rely on these programs to operate efficiently and economically. Ultimately, we fear, the price of these twin failures will be seen by every consumer in the supermarket checkout line."

Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said members of the organization “are deeply concerned over the political challenges that are making it next to impossible for Congress to reach a compromise on important legislation, while restoring fiscal order and setting a responsible course to get the federal budget back on track…

“Now that the 2008 farm bill extension has expired, farmers once again are left with uncertainty as to the safety net and risk management tools that are important in planning for next year’s crop. And come January, consumers once again face the impact of high food costs as decades-old farm policy kicks in.”

Cutting to the chase, Bing Von Bergen, president of the National Association of Wheat Growers, said “enough is enough. Funding the government is the basic charge of Congress, and policymaking on farm and nutrition policy impacts direct stakeholders and our economy as a whole.

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 “Two years running, wheat farmers are planting their next year’s crop without knowing what farm programs will exist by the time they harvest or how vital research, trade promotion and conservation programs will be funded while there is no farm law at all. Maneuvering around this level of uncertainty is no way to run a farm, and creating this level of uncertainty is no way to run a country. We call on our agriculture leaders and, more importantly, our leaders in the full House and Senate to move past regionalism and partisanship and get their jobs done.”

Congress has put all Americans “in a dire situation,” said Roger Johnson, president of National Farmers Union.“The uncertainty created by the failure to come to an agreement on how to fund the government has overshadowed a situation that impacts the livelihood of so many family farmers, ranchers, fishermen and hungry people in this country.

"Today marks the second time that the 2008 farm bill was set to expire. We are once again in a time of uncertainty and limbo. NFU urges Congress to end the partisan politics that are presently taking over the ability to accomplish any business. House leadership should appoint conferees to the farm bill conference committee so that a five-year, comprehensive bill can be put forward for the president to sign. We simply cannot afford another extension or period of inaction."

American Soybean Association president Danny Murphy, who farms near Canton, Miss., said he has, “run out of ways to say we’re disappointed” with Congress. “The farm bill authorized and provides critical funding for myriad programs on which farmers depend, including key conservation programs, indispensable foreign food assistance and market development activities, and industry-advancing research. … Once again, Congress fails to act and American farmers pay the price.”

Murphy pointed to shutdown programs that will impact soybean farmers. Those include conservation programs like the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Foreign aid programs affected by the farm bill’s expiration include the Food for Peace Program, the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, and the Emerging Markets Program (EMP). Particularly impactful for the soybean industry will be the expiration of funding for the Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (Cooperator) Program (FMD).

“Congressional gridlock has cost farmers yet again, and we demand a stop to the political gamesmanship,” said Murphy.