2013 Farm Bill Update - July 2013
While the lack of a food assistance title in the House farm bill has garnered considerable attention, food assistance has been tied to the farm bill more recently than historically (available here). The Food Stamp program was initiated by legislation outside a farm bill, the Food Stamp and farm support programs have been extended for different periods of time by the same farm bill, and major changes in the Food Stamp program have occurred outside the farm bill. Moreover, even if its authorization expires, Congress can continue the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP - previously called the Food Stamp program), by appropriating money for it. Thus, both history and the current situation suggest it is possible to write a farm bill without a food assistance title, although farm bills since the 1970s have included food assistance. Hence, from the perspective of process, like any difference between House and Senate bills, a Conference Committee will be impaneled to try to bridge the difference.
Key date for passing a farm bill is not September 30, 2013, but December 31, 2013. The farm bill was extended for the 2013 crop year, meaning current crop programs continue until a crop's 2013 crop year ends. For example, the corn and soybean 2013 crop year ends August 31, 2014. December 31, 2013 is critical because the current U.S. dairy price support program ends on this date. The dairy price support program would then revert to permanent law provisions. Permanent law provisions are primarily in the Agriculture Adjustment Act of 1938 and Agricultural Act of 1949. Under permanent law, the dairy support price is likely to exceed $35 per 100 pounds (cwt.), compared with a $9.90/cwt. support price in the 2008 farm bill and a May 2013 all-milk market price of $19.70/cwt. Congress demonstrated in its 1-year extension of the 2008 farm bill that it will not allow the dairy support price to revert to permanent law. For more details on the 1-year extension of the 2008 farm bill and permanent law, see Congressional Research Service Report, "Expiration and Extension of the 2008 Farm Bill," by Jim Monke, Megan Stubbs, and Randy Alison Aussenberg, January 15, 2013 (available here).
Besides the food assistance title, major differences in the 2013 House and Senate farm bills include:
- replacement of permanent legislation - The House Bill replaces the 1938 and 1949 farm legislation with the farm commodity title in the 2013 House farm bill. Thus, the House farm bill proposes that the House farm commodity support programs would exist forever until Congress decided to reconsider them. The Senate continues permanent legislation. Its commodity title is an amendment to the permanent laws and expires at a specified date in the future. For example, commodity programs for field crops expire after the 2018 crop year. Thus, the Senate farm bill requires that commodity programs be reconsidered. Reverting to permanent law has been an impetus for continuing dialogue on the farm safety net. The House version reduces and perhaps negates the need to pass farm safety net legislation in the future, thus likely making it harder to change the farm safety net.
- type of multiple-year program - Multiple-year assistance in the Senate bill centers on a revenue program, whose guarantees can drop and increase over time. In contrast, the House bill contains a more traditional fixed target price program. Generally, the House Bill makes larger payments to rice and peanuts than does the Senate Bill.
- type of dairy program - the Senate bill contains a supply management program; the House bill does not contain a supply management program.
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