Following a Tuesday (August 7) meeting with the White House Rural Council, President Obama ratcheted up pressure on Congress to pass a new farm bill calling the legislation “the single-best way that we can help rural communities … in the short term, but also in the long term.”

Obama also expressed hope that during the current recess of Congress, lawmakers will venture into rural communities to see the full effects of the drought lingering over half the country. Doing so, he said, would leave the lawmakers with a “greater sense of urgency” and prepare them “to get (a new farm bill) done immediately upon their return.”

The admonition comes after House leadership refused to schedule floor time for a farm bill passed out of the House Agriculture Committee on July 11. The full Senate passed its version of the farm bill in June.

Current law expires in late September and, with only a few legislative days before that deadline, lawmakers will be hard-pressed to conference a new bill.

Congress, said Obama, “needs to pass a farm bill that will not only provide important disaster relief tools, but also make necessary reforms and give farmers the certainty that they deserve.”

For more farm bill coverage, see here

With Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at his elbow, Obama also played up the White House response to the drought as “all hands on deck.”

“We’ve already designated over 1,500 counties across 32 states as disaster areas, which gives qualified farmers access to low-interest emergency loans. We’ve also opened up more land for haying and grazing. And we’ve worked with crop insurance companies to give farmers a short grace period on unpaid insurance premiums, since some families will be struggling to make ends meet at the end of this crop year…

“So today, the (USDA) is announcing an additional $30 million to get more water to livestock and restore land impacted by drought. The National Credit Union Administration is allowing an additional thousand credit unions to increase lending to small businesses. The Department of Transportation is ready to help more commercial truck drivers to provide much-needed supplies to farmers and ranchers. And the SBA, the Small Business Administration, is working with other government agencies to connect even more eligible farmers, ranchers and businesses with low-interest emergency loans as well as counseling and workforce programs.”

For more drought coverage, see here.