More than 150 farmers attending a farm day forum sent a message to Washington via Louisiana Congressmen Charles W. Boustany Jr. and Charlie Melancon and Undersecretary of Agriculture Mark Keenum: they need a new farm bill and they need it now.

Boustany, a Republican who represents Louisiana's seventh congressional district, and Melancon, a Democrat who represents the third district, co-hosted the farm day forum in Jeanerette in south Louisiana on Feb. 20.

“Today, I heard from hundreds of farmers from southwest Louisiana who talked about their need for a new farm bill,” Boustany said. “Our farmers need a responsible farm bill, and they need it now.”

Both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate have passed their versions of a new farm bill, but the House-Senate conference committee that must reconcile the bills has yet to meet because of a threat of a presidential veto.

In addition to Boustany and Melancon, Mark Keenum, undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, participated in panel discussions as well as question and answer sessions. The annual forum provides information for farmers and ranchers in Louisiana about legislation and policies in Washington affecting agriculture.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson and ranking member Robert Goodlatte have been trying to negotiate a compromise farm bill with administration officials, but have run into opposition from Senate leaders who say the House proposal fails to provide enough funding for commodity, conservation and nutrition programs.

Boustany, the only Louisiana member of the House Agriculture Committee, said he will continue to fight for a “sensible commodity title and against tax increases on the agricultural community.”

Other Republican congressmen have also been speaking out about the lack of progress on the 2008 farm bill with Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, noting that six months have passed since the House passed its version of the legislation.

“It has been two months since the Senate passed its farm bill,” said Neugebauer. “It is past time for all parties involved to get in the room and work this out.”