The mix of issues surrounding the federal budget red ink and coming elections will make the farm agenda a slow-moving one this spring, according to Roger Bernard, Farm Journal Policy and Washington Editor and Pro Farmer News Editor.
Bernard walked through a host of issues and fielded questions on the Washington scene at the Top Producer Seminar. Budget deficit reduction will come into focus and bring about the potential for cuts to farm programs, he warned. Some inkling of that will come via the Barack Obama administration's fiscal year 2010 budget, but the serious focus won't happen until 2011, after the November elections. And the budget is a factor to start the process of a new farm bill this year.
E15, Estate Tax. Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be tied up with a decision on whether to allow up to 15% ethanol in the nation's motor fuel supply, which will likely happen this summer once Department of Energy studies are completed on the impacts of higher ethanol blends on car engines. Bernard predicts the EPA will approve a 15% ethanol blend but limit it to cars 2001 and newer.
On the congressional side, lawmakers failed to find an agreement on the estate tax, letting it expire as scheduled for 2010. But Bernard predicts Congress will reach some kind of deal to bring the tax back, making it retroactive to Jan. 1, 2010.
Climate Legislation. On the hot topic of climate change, Bernard stepped folks through the hurry-up process in the House, where lawmakers gave the 1,300-page bill a scant 5½ hours of debate, hardly enough time for serious analysis on the impacts of the bill. "Every lawmaker should be ashamed for voting on that major legislation without knowing the impacts,” Bernard said. The Senate climate process is taking longer to unfold, he said, given that several committees have to put their "stamp” on the legislation. He predicts that it won't reach the finish line in 2010.
Elections. What about the 2010 elections? Bernard predicts Republicans probably won't gain the number of seats they need to return to the majority, but the current hefty Democratic margins will be much smaller after the ballots are cast in November.
Top Producer, Spring 2010