Farm Bill Gets 9-Month Extension!
As Congress worked frantically on New Year’s Day to pass a broad tax package aimed at softening the fall from the “fiscal cliff”, leaders in both the House and the Senate managed to include a 9-month extension of the current Farm Bill. Great, right? Well, not exactly. Here’s an overview of where we are and how we got here.
Despite lobbying efforts for nearly 2 years by farmers, commodity groups, and legislators that represent rural districts, the extension of the current 2008 Farm Bill was not a result of their efforts–nor did it include any reforms. It was largely the result of the looming “dairy cliff” that would have resulted if, in accordance with 1949 agricultural law, the Department of Agriculture were forced to begin buying dairy products at a rate of $38.54 per hundredweight – double that of today’s current prices. Implementation of the measure, the result of allowing the current farm bill to expire, was widely believed to have led to milk prices of $6-$7 per gallon. After heavy press coverage of the potential price increase, President Obama asked Congress to take action and avoid the price hike.
Last summer and into the end of last year, both the House and the Senate Agricultural Committees had worked with the agricultural lobby to craft serious reform of the 2008 Farm Bill – reforms with the current fiscal and social climate in mind. During the latest negotiations Republican and Democratic leadership on both ag committees were pushing for an extension that included some of the reforms they had crafted in previous legislation, including eliminating direct subsidies and dairy program reform. None of these reforms were included, and from the reports out of Washington, ag committee leadership from both parties were largely left out of the New Year’s Day negotiations.
As farmers and the agricultural lobby begin the process anew, they will be working with legislators who saw very little negative repercussions in November after failing to pass a new farm bill. Additionally, the 113th Congress will be undertaking farm bill negotiations under far more severe budget constraints.
Hopefully, America’s farmers and ranchers will not have to wait until the latest extension expires on September 30th before a comprehensive 5-year Farm Bill will be put together. In the coming months Farm Credit will continue to work with Congress to advocate for a strong Farm Bill because we:
- Support a strong, effective federal crop insurance program
- Support adequate funding for Farm Service Agency guaranteed lending programs
- Stand ready to work with Congress to address the credit needs of locally grown foods and local food systems.
We’ll keep you updated as the process continues to unfold. In the meantime, have a toast to the New Year, and the extended Farm Bill—maybe with a glass of cold, affordable milk!