Will a Republican sweep of Congress and the White House help or hurt the odds of passing the farm bill in the lame-duck session?
The winners of next week’s congressional and presidential elections will be responsible for the future of the 2012 farm bill.
There are millions of possibilities for what will happen after the election, says Pat Westhoff, director of FAPRI at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Speaking at the 2012 Doane Agriculture Outlook Conference, Westhoff described three possibilities and their results.
Scenario 1: President Obama is re-elected, Democrats retain Senate, Republicans retain House
- No reason to put off hard decisions on "fiscal cliff"
- Could result in deal on taxes, sequester, and maybe even the farm bill
- Farm bill could be compromise between Senate and House Ag. Committee bills
- But 2008 bill provisions might be kept in place for 2012
- Hard to guess budget level—could be larger cuts, at least relative to Senate bill
Scenario 2: Gov. Romney wins election, Republicans take Senate and hold House
- Lame duck Congress probably does little beyond delay decisions until 2013
- Might mean a full restart for the farm bill debate in 2013
- Most important legislation of 2013: budget reconciliation
- Could include tax reform
- Could Include major budget cuts, including in agriculture
- Procedural advantage: cannot be filibustered in Senate
- Means could pass with few or no Democratic votes
- Might completely scramble farm program debate
Scenario 3: Either the Presidency or Senate changes party, but not both
- Scrambles situation without leaving either party firmly in control
- Probably makes it hard to achieve substantive agreements during the lame duck session
- Increases likelihood of a one-year extension of current farm bill provisions
- But perhaps with some budget cuts (e.g., smaller or no direct payments)
Westhoff says the first scenario is the most predictable one. "There’s no political incentive to put decisions off."
He believes the second scenario, with the Republican sweep, will make passing the farm bill very difficult.
If a farm bill is not passed, Westhoff says the dairy programs will receive the most negative impact. If Congress is unable to take some action, farm policy could revert back to 1949 permanent law.
"It will be a mess. There’s an incentive to pass something between now and Jan. 1."