Nearly 250 members of National Farmers Union are in Washington D.C. this week for the organization's Fall Legislative Fly-In. They are meeting with legislators and discussing organizational priorities for the upcoming farm bill. On Tuesday they unveiled a study conducted by the University of Tennessee.
NFU President Roger Johnson notes the budget is a primary concern, but says it's still important to provide a strong safety net.
"It's all about the money to write about a Farm Bill," Johnson said. "I think what we are excited about is this study, we've put a lot of resources into it and a lot of thought into it, and we'll have a proposal on how you can write a Farm Bill that includes a safety net for less money than what we've been spending. I hope that is considered in this Congress."
Another issue is the timing of the next Farm Bill. Johnson notes there is more uncertainty around the process than there ever has been before, and he believes the 2012 Farm Bill could be done rather quickly.
"There is a reasonable likelihood that we could have a Farm Bill written before the end of the year," Johnson said. "It could be somehow rolled into this Super Committee process and the outlines of it described and funded and it's over and done with. I don't think that's the most likely outcome, but it is certainly a possible outcome."
Congressman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., the Ranking Member of the House Ag Committee, would like to move on another issue before the Farm Bill - dairy policy reform. Johnson notes dairy policy is always complicated and always contentious. He says it's not real likely Peterson will get his wish.
"There was a hope for a while that we might have a dairy policy that would emerge and get a lot of industry and family farm support," Johnson said. "If that had materialized there was a desire to try and move something early, ahead of the Farm Bill. The more time goes by I think the less likely you see that as an outcome."
Another item on the NFU radar is the so-called GIPSA rule. The group strongly supports the proposed rule and is hopeful it will be issued soon. There are efforts in the House to block USDA from issuing the rule. Efforts to do the same are expected in the Senate. But Johnson says NFU believes it's important to re-establish competition in the livestock marketplace.