Farm bill could be delayed until April 2013

November 6, 2012 at 9:30 am

Today is election day. In a week, Congress will be returning to Washington for the ‘lame duck’ session. It’s uncertain whether or not the political gridlock that has characterized this Congress will continue, or if it will ease up and allow for some important business to get done. Either way, there are some significant issues that will be taken up. The biggest priority for Congress will be passing a  budget to avoid the looming ‘fiscal cliff,’ but there are other issues that need to be resolved as well– namely, the Farm Bill. However yesterdayBarry Flinchbaugh, a Kansas State University agricultural economist and top farm policy expert told attendants at an agricultural bankers meeting that he predicts the Farm Bill will not be enacted until April of 2013.

As we have explained before, the lapse in passing a new bill will not have impacts until the start of the new year. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP, will continue through March, as it was extended under the six-month spending bill passed by Congress before the recess. Waiting until April would trigger some of these impacts, which include a lapse in conservation programs and spikes in milk prices.

Some have argued that this pause can allow for reforms of the farm bill provisions, while farmers and others in the agriculture sector are impatient for the next Farm Bill, as the uncertainty of not having a long-term policy makes planning for the upcoming year difficult.  Since October 1, farm policy has been reverted back to the 1938 Agricultural Adjustment Act. If Congress can’t manage to pass a new Farm Bill by the end of the year, Reuters reports that a short-term extension of the 2008 bill could be a likely outcome. But Flinchbaugh points out that ultimately, Congress can elect not to pass a one-year extension, which has happened in previous years.

Neither scenario is good for farmers, consumers, or low-income families. Reform might be possible if our elected officials could work together toward some semblance of a compromise. So far, the current Congress’ track record makes it hard to have faith in any bipartisan cooperation– but perhaps there is still some hope. Reform or not, something must be done about farm policy to avoid the consequences of having to abide by outdated policies. Kicking the can down the road won’t fix the problem, it will just drudge up the same argument one year from now. Hopefully, our Senators and Representatives will return to D.C. next week with an intention to get to work and pass both a resolution to the impending fiscal cliff and a new Farm Bill.

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Entry filed under: Agriculture Policy, Economic Development, Economy, Farm Policy, Healthy Foods. Tags: , , .

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