Tom Vilsack speaking about the farm bill.
Tom Vilsack speaking about the farm bill.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A politically divided Congress did not pass the farm bill on Thursday, and it could have major repercussions for the U.S. economy.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack addressed the topic at a forum Friday in Kansas City, Mo. The intended focus of the forum was immigration reform, but Vilsack first touched on the immediate issue of the farm bill. 

“We need certainty in farm policy and, unfortunately, yesterday we didn’t get that certainty from the House of Representatives,” Vilsack said. “There was a lack of political leadership at the highest levels of the House, which resulted in the failure... to pass farm legislation.”

There are a lot of consequences because the farm bill was not passed. Vilsack said subsidy programs, crop insurance and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamp) will suffer, but it will also have a negative effect on energy security, job growth, trade and research.

Politics played a role in the latest version of the farm bill not being accepted, he said.

“Honestly, we need to get beyond expressing disappointment and frustration, which is what we did last year and the same thing happened. The Senate, which is as conservative, and as progressive, and as divided as the House, found a way not once, but twice to pass a food, farm, and jobs bill,” Vilsack said.

The Senate passed the bill overwhelmingly, with 66 votes in favor to 27 "no" votes, providing optimism for future votes on the farm bill.

“It can be done if you are willing to reach across the aisle, if you are willing to compromise and if you are willing to search for consensus,” said Vilsack. “But that didn’t happen yesterday and there are many, many losers as a result.”

For the time being, the farm bill will likely be maintained at the 2008 level.

Vilsack remains hopeful that there will be a resolution to the problems surrounding the farm bill.

“We will continue to work hard and continue to articulate the need for certainty in a five-year program, in the hopes that what happened yesterday can be turned around,” Vilsack said.