La. farmers gather under cloud of uncertainty

U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-Alto, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, said Congress is already working on the 2018 Farm Bill to provide "security to farmers, ranchers and foresters." Greg Hilburn/USA Today Network

By Greg Hilburn, Monroe New Star

NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana's farmers and ranchers face uncertainty both at home and on a national level as more than 1,000 of them gather here for the annual Farm Bureau Convention with no Farm Bill in place and their state agriculture budget in tatters.

"This is a critical time," Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation President Ronnie Anderson said.

Producers won't have to wait long for the outcomes.

U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, the state's only member of Congress on the House Agriculture Committee, said leadership has promised a vote on the Farm Bill as soon as Thursday, the opening day of the convention.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers have until June 27 to decide whether to pass enough new taxes to avoid a minimum 24 percent cut to the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and its services.

"I believe we'll pass the Farm Bill Thursday," said Abraham, R-Alto.

Congress killed the Farm Bill on the first vote of the spring with some lawmakers protesting a work requirements for food stamps, which Abraham supports, and others using their votes as leverage for immigration bills.

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Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.