D.C. Watch: Farm bill troubles continue to mount

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It is still unclear if the House will bring up and vote on the farm bill in the lame-duck session after the election.

But the House vote on the farm bill will have to happen near the beginning of the session or there won’t be time to get the bill completed before this Congress ends. And once the new Congress is sworn in, all the work that was done on the farm bill this year disappears and the new Congress must start the process over!

Most observers believe there will be less money available for farm programs if the farm bill is pushed off into next year. But if we are to get a farm bill yet this year, first the House needs to pass their version. Then it needs to go to a conference committee with the Senate to mesh the two bills together. And then the compromise bill has to be approved by both the full House and Senate. And all this needs to happen in about a four week period.

But some House members say there are enough votes to pass the farm bill that was developed in the Agriculture Committee. A group of 25 House members conducted a survey before Congress adjourned and came up with more than 220 votes in favor of the farm bill. A total of 218 votes are needed for passage.

However the key vote is House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) who controls what bills the House will consider. And at least so far, Cantor has blocked bringing the farm bill to the floor for a vote.

There won’t be many changes immediately with the old farm bill expiring as September ends. But the Agriculture Act of 1949 goes into effect on January 1. The 1949 law uses “parity prices”, which are based on a 1910-to-1914 ratio, for determining price support levels. Parity prices reflect the buying power of farm commodities in the base period versus costs of other goods and services. The 2012 parity price support for wheat, for example, would be $13.58 per bushel and the milk price support level soars to near $38 per cwt. under parity! Congress will need to take some action at least by early next year to avoid reverting back to the 1949 law.

And the farm bill cliffhanger isn’t the only one Congress faces after the election. They also need to deal with the Bush-era tax cuts that all expire at the end of the year and many members want to at least rearrange the spending cuts that will automatically take effect in January under last summer’s budget agreement.

Under current law, cuts totaling $109 billion go into effect in January, with half of the cuts in defense spending and half in domestic programs. The combination of the expiring tax cuts and the reductions in spending are being called the “fiscal cliff” - with many economists predicting a recession next year if Congress takes no action. Congress may also have to raise the debt ceiling again by the end of the year. The farm bill could get lost amid all of these priorities in the fairly short lame duck session of Congress.

President Obama and Presidential candidate Romney both support renewable fuels and passage of a strong farm safety net. Romney says he would give farmers relief from hefty environmental regulations and would push for repeal of the estate tax. President Obama touts his record of helping farmers deal with this year’s drought and policies to strengthen rural economic growth.

The U.S. will start accruing massive export losses unless big investments are made in infrastructure according to a new report by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The report says public investment of $30 billion is needed in the nations’ ports and inland waterways by 2020. By 2015 new mega-ships will pass through the improved Panama Canal, but these ships may be too big for East Coast ports to handle. But realistically, investments will probably fall short of what is called for in the current budget environment.

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October, 01, 2012 at 08:26 AM

Why hasn’t the farm bill been passed? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTudILWFj94

Carroll Wade    
Jasper, N Y  |  October, 01, 2012 at 08:51 AM

My trust in the word of my elected officials has never been lower . My republican party has proven to be a total failure in their responsibilty to lead . Promisses from the leader and a few days later , he changes his mind to please the incompetant new comers to congress , who have little or no knowledge as to the improtance of a sound agricultural community to the entire economy . Farmers need to trust their own instinct and join togeather to put a price on their production . Our co-ops are supposed to be doing that . Many have been falling short of that responsibility . It would seem that some cherish their relationship with the processors more than that of the needs of their own members . It usually takes around three to five years for a farmer sitting on a board to begin to think like management instead of a farmer and his fellow farmers advocate . If he doesn't , he usually is gone soon . The trust that the farmers place working with their fellow farmers toward a common goal which will assure all a better lifestyle is the best direction for all of us . Just make sure that the direction is positive and benificial .

Tanika Meeks    
Chicago,Illinois  |  October, 01, 2012 at 08:56 AM


Texas  |  October, 01, 2012 at 09:33 AM

Returning to parity seems a good thing thing to me. Specially if we get a few months of $38/cwt. The idea that we can live with $ 18.00 is absurd. Break even is at $19 or $20. What is so bad to go back to parity prices?

Batavia, NY  |  October, 01, 2012 at 10:08 AM

I hope the good Republicans hold strong and do not pass this Soviet 5 year plan of a farm bill. Some drought relief is ok, but we do not need to bleed the taxpayer anymore. Cut food stamps!!!! And this Dairy Security is a bad joke. That is just a way for those dairy dimwits from NMPF to justify their 6 and 7 figure incomes. How many more boards do we need to fund?? Did I read that correctly? We need to return to parity? How much milk do you think will be sold at those prices? There would be so much milk produced that we would need to land spread it or dump it in the ocean. People need to get a clue. Too many dairies were built in California with money from urban real estate sales. And Texas has too many dairies built in the desert. Many of these unviable operations will shut down and it is not the end of the world or the end of the dairy industry.

CNY  |  October, 01, 2012 at 11:01 AM

At $38 our export markets (VERY important) would almost disappear, presently flagging fluid consumption would do the same, veggie based "milks" , spreads and cheese analogs would replace dairy for a large part of the consuming public. Many people are already saying that they would purchase organic, grass fed, etc but they can't afford it. $38 milk would surpass those prices. Outfits like Kraft would love a reason to get away from using a perishable resource like milk. Be careful what you ask for. Also, for those who keep saying "$18 milk", it only is at that level for short periods, projections now are for $22-23 by December (for CNY).

Pennsylvania  |  October, 01, 2012 at 02:11 PM

Since the farm bill has expired, wouldn't it be a good idea to lay off all those who are administrating the farm programs? It would save a lot of taxpayer's money!

CO  |  October, 02, 2012 at 12:55 AM

Sorry ... It is supply and demand (what people willing to pay). The Senate Farm Bill should NOT be passed with this section still added: SEC. 12211. DEFINITION OF RURAL AREA FOR PURPOSES OF THE HOUSING ACT OF 1949 would increase the pool of recipients and also increased rural community population requirement to 35,000. This population level would be a small City not a true rural community. Also, changing the Census date to 2020 insures those who have already received fair share of benefits over past years and now self-sufficient to continue receiving such benefits. That is the purpose of rural programs 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. This section in the Senate Farm Bill and also appearing in other bills such as House Bill H.R. 273 is a potential Legislative Back Scratching just for the purpose of continuing to feed funding to self sufficient city governments. What our government has been doing since after 1990 is “grandfathering” communities who are no longer rural and allowing them to continue to stick their fingers in the rural money pie, which in turn means less money for those in desperate need who may not have running water, proper sanitation services, decent housing, etc. This is ABUSE of all our TAX DOLLARS for the last 20+ years. Again, we are 16+ Trillion in debt and this contributes to the problem with communities who no longer need or qualify receiving more. This adds to our debt instead of solving major problems in our country such as noted in this article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/20/rural-poverty-minorities_n_1829911.html

D Acee    
NW  |  October, 03, 2012 at 07:13 AM

Please let the bill fail. I am tired of subsidizing Tanika's milk and other products. Yes Tanika...they take my money so you can have cheap groceries....that isn't fair or just.

Craig A. Moore    
Billings, MT  |  October, 03, 2012 at 08:15 AM

Let's go a different time period for determining parity. We need to get out of the time period when Europe was draining the worlds grains reserves preparing for WW 1 that they knew was comming.

NE  |  October, 09, 2012 at 08:13 PM

I remember republican farm bills {1952 IKE and Benson Siiding scale of parity = 10 cent hogs !^ cent fat cattle $1.00 corn (Dick Luger and Pat Roberts Freedom to Farm =$1.40 corn $ 8.00 hogs and Smithfield takes over hog production plus this was the most costly farm bill in history with massive LDP and disaster payments .BE alert for what Behnoer Rayan and Cantor have in store for farmers. Ihave farmed through all farm bills since 1950 and these 2 stand out as the worst ever


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