Farm Bill Update: A Mandatory Base Acre Update On The Horizon?

The primary hurdle in getting a new farm bill passed and signed into law this year will be politics. ( Farm Journal )

As Congress inches closer to Farm Bill debate, one issue has some analysts particularly concerned: a mandatory base acre update.

While there’s nothing officially on the calendar, House Agriculture Committee leaders and staff are ready to release the “chairman’s draft” of the new Farm Bill, says Jim Wiesemeyer, Pro Farmer’s Washington policy analyst. He says key issues to watch include dairy and cotton policy, a boost to maximum CRP acres, changes to the SNAP program and how the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs are altered.

Last week on AgriTalk, Wiesemeyer mentioned the Senate Agriculture Committee is looking at a mandatory base update to boost the lost threshold in the ARC.

"A mandatory base update, man, that has real consequences,” Jeff Harrison of Combest Sell & Associates told AgriTalk guest host Clinton Griffiths.

According to Harrison, 36 states “come out losers in that.” He says 14 states “win” but inside those 14 states there are a “lot of losers too.”

“There’s only one crop that really gains in that scenario,” he said, adding it’s the least likely to get an ARC or PLC payment anyway. “So if we’re trying to get aid out to farmers that seems like not a very good way to go. Didn’t we promise farmers freedom to farm back in 1996? We said that [planting] decisions that they make, wouldn’t impact the benefit they get out of the Farm Bill.”

The Timeline

According to Wiesemeyer, the Senate's farm bill version will follow the House version, likely in April or even May. He says the primary hurdle in getting a new farm bill passed and signed into law this year will be politics.

“After Congress clears the coming must-pass funding bill, the campaign season beings, and lawmakers will not want to debate major bills close to election,” he explained. “That is why some farm bill observers see a possible lame-duck session vote on a new Farm Bill.”