Looks Like a Farm Bill Extension Cannot be Avoided

November 27, 2012 12:40 AM
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No clear timeline yet on whether new farm bill can be agreed on yet this year

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.

While there is no firm decision on the timeline of a new farm bill, odds are growing that some type – and likely a one-year – extension of the 2008 Farm Bill is a distinct possibility. If so, some changes would be made relative to direct payments, which would likely be reduced but not eliminated for 2013 crops.

Time for implementation of new programs. An extension would also give USDA time to implement new farm programs included in the coming new farm bill.

Reducing direct payments would also provide some funding for extending some lapsed programs, including dairy and livestock disaster programs. Unclear is whether or not the SURE program would be extended.

Congressional sources say it will become clear by the end of next week as to whether or not there is a chance for a new farm bill to be completed yet this year. While most observers say a lot needs to be done relative to working on differences between the Senate-passed and the pending House farm bill, history shows a select group of lawmakers and their staffs can work on a major deal faster than most think. Also, aides have been busy working on various end zone scenarios for months. Others note that the same lawmakers and staff aides produced farm bill language that they wanted part of the failed budget deficit accord agreement last fall.

End zone murky, but... Unless House and Senate leaders agree that a farm bill be wrapped into an end-of-year package to avoid across-the-board budget cuts, using the billions in dollars relative to farm bill savings as partial budget offsets to avoid sequestration, the odds increase that the farm bill will be punted to 2013. In fact, some sources say this could still be the timeline even if an agreement is announced – with instructions for the Ag Committees to complete a final bill by a certain date and with designated savings.

Comments: To say there is not enough time to complete a farm bill shows how Washington remains broken. The farm bill saga has become farm bill fatigue to some if not many. Most of the experts know where the compromises are needed. It is the lack of leadership on this issue at the top levels -- not in the Ag Committees -- that needs to be resolved. Give the major Ag panel players the signal to work on a final package, and you will see how soon that can happen. But the easiest route of course would be to avoid an extended House floor battle because some conservatives, some of whom were defeated in the recent elections, can't wait for the chance to make their mark on the farm bill.

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.


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