As 2018 Farm Bill expires, new farm bill faces challenges
The 2018 Farm Bill expired on Sept. 30, and the fate of many federal agriculture programs remains in limbo. It is still being determined who will become the next House Speaker as looming conditions continue to plague the country.
Congress struck a deal to avoid a government shutdown on Sept. 30. However, it is still being determined if new legislation will pass by mid-November, and more importantly, if there will be a resolution by the end of the year.
2023 Farm Bill delayed
During an episode of Nebraska FARMcast, dated Sept. 27, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Associate Professor, Policy Specialist and Director of the North Central Extension Risk Management Education Center in the Department of Agricultural Economics Bradley Lubben stated, “The situation doesn’t get risky until December. Without additional action before year’s end, federal policy will revert to the permanent farm bill legislation enacted in the 1940s.”
He continued, “Not having a farm bill done on time is not a unique circumstance. In fact, it has become the norm. None of the past three farm bills – 2008, 2014 and 2018 – were completed on time before the previous farm bill expired.”
However, rural development and trade initiatives may only pause with a new farm bill. Still, crop insurance funded by the Federal Crop Insurance Act will continue with or without the new bill. The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, governed by the farm bill, will continue as it is a permanent program receiving additional funds through the appropriations process.
Ag economists say the longer Congress waits to pass a new farm bill or extend the 2018 Farm Bill, the more challenges it creates.
“The threat will likely motivate Congress to pass something – they could agree on a new bill or extend the current one, possibly for up to two years,” Lubben added. “The Dairy Margin Coverage Program, subsidizing milk producers, would be the first commodity program to expire. Without it, milk prices would likely soar, harming producers and consumers alike.”
According to a Congressional Research Service report, “Without a new farm bill, the policy would revert to the language of the farm bills passed in 1938 and 1949, which were passed without an expiration date and referred to as ‘permanent law,’ and under permanent law, the cost of milk would more than double.”
Still, Lubben said if Congress misses the Jan. 1 deadline, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency would still need a few weeks to implement permanent legislation, giving lawmakers enough time to get a bill passed.
“Altogether, there are plenty of reasons to push for attention to the farm bill in coming weeks to see progress toward a new farm bill or an extension of existing legislation,” Lubben said. “This doesn’t mean the process will be easy or productive, but there remains the big hammer of permanent legislation taking effect in 2024 to ensure something happens.”
Removal of House Speaker creates more challenges
Congressman Patrick McHenry (R-NC) is the House Speaker pro tem after the House removed Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in a historic vote.
In an interview with Brownfield Ag News on Oct. 4, National Potato Council Chief Executive Officer Kam Quarles stated, “The House needs to get back to work. With a government shutdown, the farm bill, all of these things, the pain is going to be magnified the longer we put this stuff off and the longer this drama is able to overhang this pretty vital institution.”
Quarles continued, “Big spending bills still need to be tackled, like funding the government and the 2023 Farm Bill. A new House Speaker must think long and hard about these pieces of legislation if they want to get them across the House floor.”
On Oct. 10, University of Missouri’s Extension Associate Executive Professor Scott Brown told Brownfield Ag News, “The recent disruptions in Washington, D.C. brings any movement on a farm bill to a halt. To me, it’s about how quickly we get a speaker in place and if the problems existing on the House side go away or not. It’s not clear to me – just because we have a new speaker doesn’t mean we aren’t going to have the same sort of problems unfold as we come up against the deadline we’re currently under.”
According to an Agri-Pulse article dated Oct. 6, U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) and Congressional leader on the ag and immigration policy, said he wants to hear from speaker candidates on how they plan to move a farm bill as well as appropriations and other legislation.
Newhouse, who chairs the Congressional Western Caucus, places a heavy focus on agriculture, land use and environmental issues and told Agri-Pulse it’s not clear whether House Republican leaders can move a bipartisan farm bill in the current environment.
He stated, “I want to know how the candidates will approach not only the farm bill, but how they will bring together the conference, so we are able to move forward on appropriation bills and some of the other things we have to accomplish.”
On Oct. 10, House Republicans met to hear from Minority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH), who were the Republican nominations to be the next House Speaker, replacing McCarthy. Many left the private forum feeling pessimistic they could agree on a new speaker.
By a vote of 113 to 90 during a closed-door party meeting on Oct. 11, Republicans nominated Scalise as their choice to lead the House. His candidacy will now go to the House floor for a final vote. But, as of Oct. 13, Scalise dropped his bid for House Speaker.
However, Gregg Doud, National Milk Producers Federation chief operating officer, stated on Oct. 5 at the World Dairy Expo, “With the House of Representatives in a state of chaos, the chances of a new farm bill passing Congress by the end of the year look more and more unlikely. They won’t get it done.”
But, according to an article published Oct. 10 by Northeast Arkansas Talk Business and Politics, U.S. Sen. John Boozman (R-AK) commented, “I believe a new bill will be passed by the end of the year or early next year.”
Boozman was attending the Rotary Club of Downtown Little Rock meeting.
Both the Senate and House Agriculture Committees acknowledge the end of the year will be the new target for passing the omnibus legislation, which dictates agricultural, food and conservation spending in the U.S.
Melissa Anderson is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.