BELLEVILLE — Worries about the nine-month extension to the nation's 2012 Farm Bill dominated an agriculture forum Friday conducted by U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Belleville.
"With the farm bill, the problem is that it's just a short-term fix. It's really not even a fix at all," said Enyart, a freshman congressman who sits on the House Agriculture Committee.
Enyart met with farmers at the St. Clair County Farm Bureau. Under bureau rules, the news media were kept from attending the meeting, though Enyart and participants were available for questions afterward.
Under a nine-month extension approved by Congress on Jan. 1, the 2012 farm bill provides no certainty on such issues as farm subsidies and crop insurance beyond the Sept. 1 expiration deadline.
"The farm bureau would like to see a five-year farm bill passed again," Enyart said. The agriculture industry "has enough uncertainty built into it, with drought and floods ... that we need stability."
David Hankammer, who raises corn, soybeans and wheat on a farm in rural Belleville, said he was worried about how the farm bill extension fails to address the nation's $16 trillion public debt or provides certainty regarding crop insurance beyond 2013.
"With extending the farm bill now, we really don't address the budgetary concerns the nation has," said Hankammer, the president of the agriculture group's St. Clair County bureau. "So I think it's time that congress sits down and writes a farm bill that addresses those concerns and also address the crop insurance needs."
The farm bill extension keeps in place $5 billion for crop subsidies, and it barely touches the U.S. Agriculture Department's nearly $80 billion-per-year Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, which used to be known as food stamps.
Republican-led efforts to cut SNAP's budget were the main reason the 2012 farm bill stalled in the U.S. House last year.
Enyart said he plans to have similar meetings in the weeks ahead with farmers at farm bureau offices in the counties that make up the 12th U.S. House District, which Enyart won the right to represent in the November general election.