Farm bill failure

By Matt Reese

The farm bill looks like it will most likely expire with the month of September.

“The election is on Nov. 6 and you can look at the scheduled session days and there are no scheduled session days between now and the election, so the farm bill will expire at the end of September,” said Adam Ward, with the Ohio Soybean Association. “After the election, the chances remain slim for a farm bill in 2012 during the lame duck session. For this to happen, things will have to remain the same after the election with the House under Republican control, the Senate under Democrat control and the same President. If things change after the election, they will probably wait until the next session of Congress.”

Despite the loud-and-clear statement from nearly 40 national agricultural organizations in the coalition using the name Farm Bill Now, Congress failed to get the job done. Ward said, however, the Farm Bill Now effort was not a failure.

“We certainly had some success in getting the message to legislators, and anytime you can get the American Farm Bureau, the National Farmers Union and the commodity groups working together for a common cause it is a good thing,” Ward said. “We let them know that farmers need stability in farm policy so they can begin to plan for the next year’s crop and the long term planning for their operations.”

Looking forward, the soaring cost of crop insurance and the move away from direct payments to farmers in favor of risk-management measures will shape the future of the farm bill, according to Ohio State University agricultural economist Carl Zulauf.

“It’s more common than not common that the Farm Bill expires before another one is approved,” Zulauf said. “January 1, 2013, is really the date to watch for, when some of the programs [in the current legislation] would go away if there’s no new Farm Bill and the resolution to continue it expires.”

Zulauf said there is ample incentive for the current Congress to pass a  farm bill in 2012 before the end of the year because it could save billions at a time when deficit reduction is a hot topic. The Senate version cuts $23 billion over 10 years and the House version cuts $36 billion over a decade.

“It’s hard to believe this Congress will not pass a Farm Bill that saves money,” Zulauf said.

No matter what version is favored, Zulauf said the issue of crop insurance and its cost will impact the future of the legislation.

“The next Farm Bill will be about crop insurance and the cost of crop insurance,” Zulauf said. “It costs $5 billion a year now. It’s no longer a small program. We are at that point where we will be taking a hard look at that.”

Also shaping the Farm Bill will be the shift from direct payments to producers and a stronger emphasis on risk management, mostly in the form of crop insurance programs to guarantee that farmers are protected, Zulauf said.


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