Agriculture policy: An urgent need for serious dialogue
The failure of the House Farm Bill is old news now, but the future of the Farm Bill will make news for some time to come. And agriculture may have to come to grips with reality that the 2008 Farm Bill was the last one to see a linkage of farm and food policy. And there is reason to wonder if the 2008 Farm Bill was the last omnibus farm policy document. The agricultural community has become more focused on those prospects since the monumental vote last Thursday. What are they saying? What is next? Are there options?
There are few options available now, and even fewer that are good, and fewer still that might become reality. Please review the observations and analysis at Farmgateblog.com. The House leadership has a challenging task after its disparate membership rejected its own committee’s Farm Bill for the first time in 80 years of creating national farm policy legislation.
- The House leaders can direct their Agriculture Committee to create a fiscally pared down, purely partisan bill designed to only get Republican votes. With the GOP majority in the House the outcome would be severely reduced spending on food and nutrition programs, and it could totally eliminate that $80 billion annual program area and only address the $16 billion annually appropriated for commodity programs, conservation, rural development and non-food programs.
- The House could do nothing and let the 1949 Permanent Farm Law take effect. That will not happen, since that was the specter created by the “fiscal cliff” at the start of the year, which would have caused milk prices to increase to $6-$8 per gallon. The Permanent Agricultural Law guarantees farmers commodity prices based on an inflation rate anchored in 1910-1914. At the end of November, USDA calculated those to be: corn, $12 per bushel; soybeans, $28.90 per bushel; wheat, $18.30 per bushel; cattle, $292 per cwt; hogs $160 per cwt; and milk, $52.10 per cwt, all of which would severely jolt the economy.
- The House could extend the 2008 Farm Bill for another year to keep structural integrity for agriculture. That is what occurred at the outset of the year, which many found quite distasteful because of the cost, but since the House was not given a chance to vote on its Agriculture Committee’s Farm Bill proposal in 2012, there was no other choice at that time.
- The House could also consider the Senate’s 2013 Farm Bill, which makes only a $400 million annual cut to food and nutrition programs, and would likely not get more than a handful of Republican votes in the House.