New Farm Bill: What's LIkely

August 23, 2013 04:14 AM
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Key farm bill decisions ahead

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

Farm Bill: What's Likely

  • Timeline: Congressional leaders want a final bill by end of Sept. 30.

  • Conference: If House officially announces conferees, that signals a deal is at hand. If not, no deal. Also, House Ag Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) will chair a farm bill conference.

  • Final outcome still murky due to several contentious issues led by food stamp funding and farmer safety net differences.

  • Food stamps: Senate farm bill would cut funding $4 billion. House has yet to act as they will attempt to vote on a separate bill after lawmakers return Sept. 9 and that measure could total $40 billion in cuts. This wide difference will be very difficult to reconcile.

  • If House fails to clear separate food stamp funding bill, look to congressional leaders for compromise.

  • Possible linkage to must-pass bills. A new farm bill could be part of late-2013 action on either a continuing resolution to fund the government in Fiscal Year 2014, which begins Oct. 1, or as part of fall debt limit hike talks. Some of the farm bill savings could be used as “pay-fors” for changing sequestration (across-the-board) budget cuts that are still in place and disliked by many lawmakers and President Obama.

  • Another 2008 Farm Bill extension cannot be ruled out. In fact, the majority of observers think this is likely, but GOP and Democratic leaders want a new farm bill and at least the will is there to complete a new farm bill.

  • Any farm bill extension will itself face hurdles as some conservative senators would insist on major cuts if not elimination of direct payments. If that occurs, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), ranking member on the House Ag Committee, says that's like a new farm bill and thus he and other Democrats would not support.

  • Any farm bill extension could be longer than one year as congressional leaders do not want to deal with this issue in an election year.

  • If there is a new farm bill the most important features will be:

    * Dairy program: A gross margin program would replace the current program. Although it is a close call, dairy supply management language will not likely be in any compromise measure.

    * Farmer safety net: Farmers will be given a choice between a revenue assurance plan favored by the Senate, and a target price plan favored by many in the House. The safety net provisions will look more like the language in the House-passed farm bill.

    * No major changes for current crop insurance program. A new Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) will be offered.

    * The maximum acres in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) will be reduced from the current 32 million maximum acres to either 24 million acres in House bill or 25 million acres in Senate bill.

    * Cotton producers would be provided a new revenue assurance program called STAX that is under the crop insurance title of the farm bill and thus there would be no payment caps.

    * A new bill will include a new USDA Undersecretary of Trade.

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






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