The 2013 congressional battle over the farm bill appears that it will spill over at least into early 2014. Lawmakers are heading home for the year too soon to get something finished up this year, though they maintain there is hope for speedy action in 2014 with a likely vote in January.
“A week ago I was concerned that we may not be able to get a farm bill passed. I am more optimistic after talking to Chairwoman Stabenow that things are coming together. We have passed it a couple of times and the question is getting the House on board,” said Senator Sherrod Brown. “The President wants a farm bill. He knows it is a jobs bill. We are extending a safety net to commodities and we are strengthening it with some of the money we saved by cutting direct payments.”
Despite the hopefulness from the Senators, Ohio agricultural groups are still concerned about the lack of progress.
“I wish we could say we are surprised the farm bill has expired yet again without any sort of action, but unfortunately we have been stuck on the same merry-go-round for a long time. The day the 2008 farm bill passed, we all knew it had an expiration date,” said Tadd Nicholson, Executive Director for the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association. “It appears the U.S. House and Senate remain in good faith negotiations to work out their differences. With grain prices already flirting with the cost of production, the last thing Ohio’s grain farmers need is more uncertainty. We need a farm bill that protects crop insurance, continues to help promote American agricultural products for export, and offers some certainty for the next 5 years so our farmers can plan for their future. We need a farm bill and we need it now.”
There has been progress on the farm bill that may hopefully (finally) bear fruit in 2014.
Adam Sharp, with Ohio Farm Bureau, pointed out that while progress has been made, there are still many sticking points in the debate.
“There is still a long list of disagreements. Do you cut anywhere from $4 billion to $40 billion on the nutrition side? There is a big gap in opinion. With adjusted gross income, where do you set that level, should that level be reduced for some farmers based on adjusted gross income? Should there be a means test for the crop insurance subsidy? Linking conservation compliance to crop insurance is another issue that has been hotly debated,” Sharp said. “There is the King amendment that deals with creating standards in a state and the ability to force other producers trying to sell products into that state to also have to meet those standards. The King amendment says, ‘No you can’t do that.’ Then you have dairy and stabilization and margin protection program. The Senate says take both of those parts in this new dairy program, the House wants to get rid of the stabilization side.
“Last but not least would be the Title 1 programs and a revenue program that Midwestern farmers are interested in verses a target price program that the Southern farmers are interested in. The southerners want that based on annual planted acres, while other farmers argue very strongly that this will force you to plant to a program and take the markets out of it.”