As of this week, the U.S. ag committee is officially without a farm bill.
While the 2008 bill expired, it really came as no surprise, as those in Congress had recessed Sept. 21 without a new bill in place. Congress does not convene again until after the November election.
So, what does that mean to those who work with and under the farm bill?
According to Rep. Collin Peterson, who serves as Minnesota’s Seventh District Congressman and is a member of the House ag committee, the lack of a farm bill is not that big of a deal right now, but it certainly is going to be by the end of the year.
Programs, such as the one that provides food stamps, are going to continue for the immediate future, said Peterson.
“The major stuff just goes on,” Peterson explained, adding programs such as crop insurance continue.
Peterson said the CRP program is not being extended with the expiration, but he said that really would not be an issue until next year when new sign-ups would begin for the next round of CRP contracts.
Although there is no immediate issue to address with the farm bill’s expiration, Peterson expressed his frustration with the political maneuverings that led to the bill being shelved.
There were some organizations, he said, that had scored the bill low and many legislators who are running for another term feared voting in favor of the 2012 farm bill proposal might have been used against them.
Peterson said he had conversations with John Boeh-ner, the current speaker of the House who Peterson said opted not to bring the farm bill to a vote.
Peterson wondered what kind of political price some members of Congress might pay for not voting on the bill, but he added it appears the issues surrounding agriculture don’t seem to have the same kind of clout they used to.
Peterson said a number of farm groups have come out in support of the farm bill, including major commodity groups, as well as those involved in nutrition, conservation and those larger groups, such as Farmers Union and Farm Bureau.
“Everybody wants this bill passed,” he said.
One of the areas of concern for Peterson relates to the dairy industry. He said the issue of dairy help in the farm bill as it currently exists would end as of Dec. 31, and he said if the bill is not passed during the final session of the year there would be some major difficulties for dairy operations.
Peterson proposed what is known as the dairy security act would help dairy farmers with margins due to rising feed costs.
Page 2 of 2 - He said if the farm bill with the dairy security act is not approved, permanent law goes into effect, which means assistance for the dairy industry in a challenging time would drop significantly.
That, he said, should be enough motivation to get this bill through during what most are calling a lameduck session.
Peterson said he is not interested in an extension of the current farm bill, especially as it relates to dairy, and he said he would not support that proposal. In the past, added Peterson, when a farm bill extension proposal has been raised and he did not support it, it did not pass.
He also said he has groups standing behind him who also support the programs coming to an end under the recently expired bill, rather than extending current policy.
Peterson said he has been told by House leadership that the farm bill is on the docket for the session following the election, and he is hopeful that leadership is going to help move the bill along.
The bill has bipartisan support.
“I really hope we can get this done before the end of the year,” said Peterson.