U.S. agriculture — and particularly southern agriculture — faces perhaps the most daunting challenge in decades to get its message before Congress and the administration, says Chip Morgan, executive vice president of the Delta Council at Stoneville, Miss.

With the crafting of the 2012 farm bill in the hands of predominantly non-southern House and Senate Agriculture Committee members, many of them brand new to Congress, “our challenge is to make a concentrated effort to educate the new members about the importance of agriculture and to emphasize to them that one policy may not fit all segments of agriculture,” he said at the annual meeting of the Mississippi Rice Council at Cleveland, Miss.

“It’s more important than ever that all the commodity and ag organizations work together on goals for farm legislation and to find common ground with specialty crops and conservation interests.”

Morgan says it’s “my personal view that Congress won’t begin writing a farm bill this year, and I think it’s entirely possible they won’t get around to it next year either.

“With the big turnover in Congress last November, particularly in the House, and all the turbulence surrounding the issues of the national debt and the budget deficit, it’s going to be difficult to focus much attention on other legislation.”

The 2010 elections were markedly different from those in the past, he says, in that a number of members in key ag leadership positions either didn’t get re-elected or retired.