D.C. Watch: Can a new farm bill get through Congress?

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Getting a compromise farm bill is far from certain. If Congress does proceed to a conference committee, the challenges to get a compromise that can pass both houses of Congress are huge.

If the House could not accept a farm bill proposal with spending cuts to the nutrition program of $20 billion over 10 years – it seems unlikely that they would approve a bill with cuts somewhere near the $4 billion contained in the Senate bill.

However, if the conference committee can come up with a bill that satisfies the conferees, the bill could bypass the full House and Senate votes if it is attached to some must-pass bill like a continuing resolution.

That may be the only way to get a new farm bill through Congress.

A possible government shutdown is now only days away. The end of the fiscal year is fast approaching and Congress has not passed a continuing resolution to keep the government running past September 30.

The House is preparing a bill that would fund the government through mid-December but it is expected to include a defunding of the Affordable Care Act, which has little chance of being approved by the Senate or signed by the President. Unless leaders in the House of Representatives cancel next week’s recess, there is essentially no time left to get this thing ironed out.

Other news from Washington:

  • The crop insurance program is under attack. At a rally on Capital Hill Wisconsin Representatives Tom Petri and Ron Kind called for policymakers to revamp the crop insurance program claiming that the existing program guarantees insurance companies a 14 percent profit at taxpayer expense, and Bloomberg News carried a three-part series criticizing the program. Supporters of the program argue that the program allows farmers to manage risks before, not after problems develop, which saves taxpayers money. There is still a chance that Congress will make changes to the crop insurance program as part of any new farm bill.
  • A panel of three federal judges upheld California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, which means the law can be implemented. Fuel companies had sued arguing that the standard discriminated against biofuels produced in other states. The standard requires fuel to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the emissions are calculated on the fuel’s entire life cycle.
  • USDA says it will not investigate the discovery of genetically modified alfalfa in a non-gmo field in Washington. Earlier this year the discovery of gmo wheat in Oregon triggers an extensive investigation, but the gmo wheat was a type that had not been approved for commercial production. GMO alfalfa has been deregulated and available for commercial sale since 2011. But the gmo contamination is a problem because some importing countries, including Japan and Saudi Arabia, refuse to accept contaminated alfalfa. Since alfalfa is cross pollinated by bees, preventing gmo contamination is almost impossible.
  • The new farm bills being considered may violate world trade rules and trigger chal­lenges at the World Trade Organization according to some major business groups. The House bill links support payments to actual planted acreage which would likely be suc­cessfully challenged at the WTO. A successful WTO challenge would probably lead to retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports. The business groups making the claim include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Foreign Trade Council.

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Batavia, NY  |  September, 23, 2013 at 11:10 AM

The farm bill is out of hand. The crop insurance subsidy is bloated and they want to expand it to cover alfalfa. Really?? Alfalfa??? Get off the taxpayers back! And dairy wants this "Supply Management", but many farmers do not like it. Supply Management sounds like the first steps to quotas. Then after a few generations the quotas will all be owned by people living in New York and New Jersey just like the peanut quotas. What a joke the government is along with their lackeys like NMPF.

Kelly Walen    
Red Bluff Ca  |  September, 23, 2013 at 08:15 PM

I sure hope not until they get rid of that Monsanto rider

susie nash    
md  |  September, 24, 2013 at 06:12 AM

Things I want the public to know. Food stamps are paid for by farmers. It is taken out of my milk check prior to me getting it. We get a 1099 for any help and have to pay tax on any government monies received. The government pays over and over for people using differnt farm names or owner names for the same land. There is alot of double and triple dipping in crop farming. They should have way of making sure tax payers are not buying up ground and new equipment for some dishonest farmers. I am in favor of supply management. We use to have this and we were paid more for our milk. In our area this is no room to grow. The grain farmers have the land rent so high and the government ethinol program has the feed so high you can`t expand, not to mention new epa rules. This puts farmers like us at a disadvantage as there is a shortage of milk in our area and in other parts of the country they can grow as big as they want forcing our price down. If each state were to produce enough milk for that state and not alot of extra unless you had to under contract for another state we would all get paid a decent price for out milk.

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