Farm Bill Scenarios

Congressional legislation is usually hotly contested and last minute, but the looming expiration of the Farm Bill September 30 is especially thorny. 

“I’m not sure which day, I’m not sure which month, but there will be a new farm bill,” said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, as reported in an Agri-Pulse story.

Why so complicated? A Chicago Tribune story notes election-year politics, a deeply divided Congress and limited days for congressional action — Congress is in session for only eight days when it resumes September 10. Agri-Pulse notes the several “very important priorities” also requiring congressional attention such as “military sequestration, tax code issues and a continuing resolution to address spending for the next six months.” An Argus Leader story notes “uncertainty from lawmakers about proposed nutrition program reforms within the bill and lack of interest from those in urban areas.” 

But, it’s not only farmers and producers whom are affected by the delay.

“It's not just important to the people who work the land, it's important to everybody who buys food in the grocery store," said Pam Johnson, an Iowa farmer quoted in a Chicago Tribune story. 

“All of us need food, and all of us recognize that when we have a drought like we had this year, it’s going to impact our food prices, it’s going to impact our families,” said Sioux Falls, Rep. Kristi Noem, as reported by Argus Leader.

Industry affiliates such as seed, feed, nutrient and equipment suppliers, ag lenders and others, are also greatly impacted. The Farm Bill determines policies that are crucial to farmers’ and producers’ future business decisions, such as outlays for crop insurance and disaster protection. Not having this forecast doesn’t allow them to have structured financial plans and doesn’t give industry affiliates the ability to estimate projected business traffic.

What can happen?

Farm Bill scenarios after September 30:
•    Pass a bill with regular order
•    Pass a short-term extension of current law
•    Do nothing and therefore revert to the 1949 version of the bill

“The drought has made the need for a renewal of that program extremely urgent,” states the Argus Leader story.   

"Farm Bill Now," a group of 40 farm and agriculture-related organizations, will rally on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol September 12 to lobby lawmakers.

“I’m basically telling both sides that, as the drought has demonstrated in the Midwest this year and in the Southwest the last two years, economic certainty is important to farmers and their bankers and ultimately consumers. Let’s do a farm bill. Let’s do the responsible thing,” said Lucas.

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