Thursday, September 13, 2012

Farm Bill Expires in 17 Days- Uncertainty Continues

Congress has returned from its August district work period and the Farm Bill continues to have a very uncertain future. Yesterday, the Farm Bill Now Coalition of 80 organizations held a rally in Washington D.C. that was well attended by farmers and ranchers from all over the country. Much of the country wants a bill to be passed, but there is still uncertainty about how Congress will move forward.  Below are the possible scenarios for the Farm Bill.

·         Five year Farm Bill is passed- The goal would be to have a five year Farm Bill passed and sent to the president before October 1. Unfortunately, this would be extremely difficult with the few legislative days left before the elections and the House leaderships’ unwillingness to risk a divided party. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) is now pushing for the House to pass a five year bill so that a conference can occur and a bill can be passed in November after the elections. Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) and Rep. Kristi Noem (R-ND) are attempting to go around House leadership by filing a discharge petition. If their petition receives 218 signatures, then the bill could move to the floor to be debated and voted on.

·         One year extension and a separate draught assistance bill- This seems to be the answer that leadership in the House is really pushing for. Although a straight continuation of the Farm Bill would allow many programs to expire, a modified version will likely be put forth after the elections. The House has already passed a draught assistance bill, but the Senate is unlikely to take up this bill. The Senate’s argument is that draught assistance is included in the five year Farm bill already passed in the Senate and a one year extension will not bring certainty to the Agricultural sector.

·         No bill is passed- This is the worst case scenario. In this situation, the Farm Bill expires on October 1 and Congress fails to act to pass either an extension or a five year bill. Agricultural laws would revert back to laws from the 1940s. Some have said that this would not be that disastrous because most programs would continue to run until spring time when the farmers begin to harvest.

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