Jim Dickrell is the editor of Dairy Today and is based in Monticello, Minn.
Today’s Election and the Farm Bill
Nov 03, 2012
A whole host of scenarios could play out on a farm bill vote.
Today is Election Day 2012. Ok, unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock or were hit with one yesterday, you knew that.
Today’s results—and hopefully we’ll have results today—will impact dairy farmers. That’s because House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, (R-Va.) stated, as recently as a couple of weeks ago, that the House will vote on the 2012 farm bill yet this year.
A Lame Duck vote will be affected by today’s vote. There’s a whole host of scenarios that could play out. If President Obama wins re-election (a 50/50 proposition this morning), the Senate remains Democratic and the House remains Republican, the farm bill debate will likely follow the pre-election narrative. That is: Some cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/food stamps), fewer automatic payments to crop producers but still lucrative crop insurance subsidies.
For dairy, provisions of the Dairy Security Act will be in play. The margin insurance program is a given; the complementary stabilization program will be at issue.
At last week’s National Milk Producer Federation/Dairy Management Inc. annual meeting, NMPF officials expressed confidence that the dairy stabilization program would/will win the day. But dairy processors are equally confident that they have the votes—along with the support of House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio)—for the Goodlatte amendment. (Remember: The Goodlatte amendment caps margin insurance protection at 80% of a farm’s annual production at sign-up but has no stabilization program.)
If Romney wins the presidency, the Senate remains Democratic and the House remains Republican, the pressure to compromise falls to the Democrats. After all, they’ll still have a friendly pen in the White House during the Lame Duck.
But farm state Republican congressmen will also be under pressure. They are already on the hot seat back home for not passing a farm bill in September; they promised to finish the job during the campaign. “If Republicans don’t cut a deal but pass an extension of the current bill, they won’t do what they’ve promised to do,” says Dana Brooks, NMPF’s vice president of government relations.
There are also scenarios where the House could flip Democratic. That’s very unlikely, though Democrats could pick up a seat here or there. And there are scenarios where the Senate could flip Republican, but those are unlikely, says Stu Rothenberg, editor and publisher of The Rothenberg Political Report. Rothenberg spoke via Skype at the NMPF/DMI meeting last week as well.
Finally, passing an extension and punting into 2013 isn’t a very palatable option for anyone. First, even greater budget pressures loom either with sequestration or a new budget baseline that comes into effect March 1. Second, Congress and farmers really don’t want to revisit another prolonged farm bill fight in 2013.
There are only two pieces of advice I can give today: Vote. Then let your Congressperson know exactly which version of the Dairy Security Act you want. If you don’t voice your opinions, you can bet others will. I’m 100% sure of that.