Farm bill failure means predictable 2013 and unknown future

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Andrew Novakovic, an expert on the farm bill and professor of agricultural economics at Cornell University, commented on Congress’ failure to produce a new long-term farm bill and its “fiscal cliff” compromise to extend the current farm bill through 2013.

Novakovic says:

“As anticipated, some accommodation of agricultural and food policy was made as part of the larger fiscal deal. Agricultural policy leaders in the House and Senate had hoped to graft an entire farm bill to this deal, but the politics that kept the House from voting on the Agriculture Committee's proposal this fall also made it impossible to squeak a new farm bill in through the back door.  Although it was originally opposed by the leaders of both the House and Senate agriculture committees, what was done instead was an extension to the 2008 legislation.

“Some specifics of the extension include the 2008 Dairy Product Price Support Program reauthorized through Dec. 31, 2013. This means the new ‘go back to the 1949 Act’ dairy cliff is pushed to the end of 2013. It also means that the equivalent of a $10 support price for Class III and IV milk remains in effect, which is to say no effect at all.

“The Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program that compensates dairy producers when prices fall below specific levels is extended by simply changing all the 2012 dates for MILC in the 2008 Farm Bill to 2013. This means that the more generous formula and larger production cap goes back into effect and extends through Aug. 30, 2013. This raises the possibility of retroactive payments to farmers. Because of some ambiguity in the bill's language, it is not entirely clear whether this would include milk produced in September 2012, which is important to farmers because it is the only retroactive month with a significant payment opportunity.

“For all other agricultural support programs, the extension simply changes dates from 2012 to 2013, meaning that programs applied to corn, soybeans, wheat, sugar, peanuts and cotton for the 2012 harvest will apply to the 2013 harvest. It is extremely unlikely that any action of Congress in 2013 would change those programs and conditions in mid-stream. So, crop growers should plan on the familiar programs continuing for another year.

“In other parts of the bill, a number of programs are extended, but the provisions for funding them are not. Among the programs that are reauthorized are the following:

  • “The Conservation Reserve program is similarly extended through 2013.
  • “Nutrition Education and Employment and Training Programs associated with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are extended.  The basic benefits of SNAP are continuing regardless of this extension.
  • “Certain research programs are continued, including the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. 
  • “Certain Bio-based energy and products programs are extended. This has nothing to do with the requirement to use ethanol in gasoline – that is a different bill. 
  • “Certain Horticulture and Organic Ag Programs are extended, including the Farmers Market Promotion Program and the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program. 

“Lastly, the extension explicitly does not extend certain other Conservation, Trade, Rural Development and disaster assistance programs.

“A more interesting question may be, where do we go from here? A 2013 Farm Bill could look quite different from the 2012 Farm Bill that emerged from the Senate and the House Ag Committee discussions. Educated guesses are that the 2013 conditions will be less favorable for agriculture and food programs.”

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CO  |  January, 11, 2013 at 02:21 AM

The Farm Bill is full of past legislative garbage and needs to be eliminated. If there is any future Farm Bill it should just pertain to farmers to insure proper food supply and access to insurance same as any other business, nothing more and nothing less. This bill should not contain items for broadband, energy, housing, welfare, etc. All this promotes is future petty bickering such as now with holding hostage any bill to insure proper food supply vs. food stamps. SNAP should stand alone as needed to better control abuses and better regulate. The Senate Farm Bill and also in other bills such as House Bill H.R. 273 and H.R. 6416 is legislative back scratching for the purpose of continuing to feed funding to self sufficient city governments. The purpose of rural programs is to help very small struggling communities grow and... become self-sufficient, not to become a Welfare System for self-sufficient communities who have already received past benefits wanting more. What is happening in some areas is land is being obtained to implement USDA programs by violating the consumer property rights of other citizens who have contracts and prior Vested Property Rights causing families financial harm. Implementing government programs is not supposed to violate laws or harm citizens. Adding more property to USDA control at this time until steps are placed to protect Americans from abuse would be irresponsible. We are 16+ Trillion dollars in debt and it is now time to start eliminating items from legislation and get our debt under control. Any and all excess baggage needs to go ...

January, 11, 2013 at 08:38 PM

P of C has it RIGHT. Whose future in Agriculture needs a Farm Bill to eliminate uncertainty? What provision of the current Farm Bill allows the price of milk to go to $7.00/gallon? That little provision should disappear. If we aren't killing dairymen or dairy cows, milk has no reason but for a Farm Bill to go to that price.

Lillian Yontz    
Ohio  |  January, 11, 2013 at 09:19 AM

AMEN !!! PowerOfChoice. Never understood what SNAP had to do with agriculture.

Charles Masse    
CT  |  February, 04, 2013 at 03:29 PM

AN 4689 In a time of economic recovery we need the USDA to help build bomeownership to underserved communities. up to 80% of current covered areas by USDA RD housing will be eliminated in many states. The USDA RD program is far and away a better sister than FHA. Who can I talk to to to help stoke the fire?

Georgia  |  February, 14, 2013 at 01:36 AM

The reason that welfare/food stamps is contained within the Farm Bill is so that all legislators have an interest in it. The majority of our representatives are not familiar with agriculture. So, in order to keep a bill priority, we have to do this.

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