Farm bill by 2014? Maybe … maybe not

November 22nd, 2013 Chris Kick

SALEM, Ohio — Another year is about to end, and, like the past two years, the future of a new farm bill is unclear.

Congressional conferees were unable to reach an agreement before the start of their Thanksgiving recess, which began Nov. 21 for the House, and Nov. 22 in the Senate.

The conferees — 41 members — 29 House conferees and 12 from the Senate — first met to conference the House and Senate versions of the bill Oct. 30.

There was a sense of urgency throughout that meeting, in which several congressional leaders said their own credibility in Washington depends on getting a bill done.

When Congress returns in December, they’ll have less than two weeks to uphold their credibility, if they intend to get the bill passed into law by the end of the year. The House is scheduled to break Dec. 13.

The process

For the bill to move out of conference, a majority of the House and Senate conferees must agree on the provisions, before the bill can be introduced on the Senate or House floor.

Failure to pass a farm bill by the end of the year would mean more uncertainty for farmers and rural America, and for the nation’s 47 million who receive food stamps.

What’s at stake

In a report released Nov. 21, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and White House staff warned that food prices could also skyrocket as certain ag laws would revert back to 1940s policy, doubling the price of milk and affecting other foods.

In a separate report published Nov. 14, Ohio State University Farm Policy Expert Carl Zulauf and Jonathan Coppess, clinical assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, gave a detailed summary of what might happen.

Battle points

It appears the two biggest issues of controversy are cuts to food stamps, and farm safety nets — for crop and livestock farming. The House bill calls for about $39 billion in cuts to food stamps over 10 years, compared to just $4 billion by the Senate.

But both nutrition and farm safety nets are big issues.

“It is easy to point to nutrition programs as the likely reason that a new farm bill will not occur,” the authors wrote. “However, we think the farm safety net issues are just as, and maybe more divisive.”

Dairy programs

A big concern is what type of risk management to offer dairy farmers. Both the House and Senate bill’s replace current dairy programs with a risk management program based on the margin difference between the price of milk and feed.

The difference is, the Senate contains a provision to control milk supply by encouraging supply reductions when margins are especially low.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has openly criticized the Senate plan, known as the Dairy Security Act — as a form of supply management. The House amended its version of the farm bill to include provisions of the Dairy Freedom Act — which provides margin protection but does not include supply management.

According to the report filed by Zulauf and Coppess, the two bills also differ on the structure of the margin program subsidy by herd size, with the House bill being more favorable to small farms than the Senate bill. This difference is part of a larger issue concerning how much should government subsidize risk programs for large farms.

Read Zulauf’s full policy brief.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, who is a Democratic conferee from Ohio, said he supports the Senate version of dairy support. He said the dairy policy is one of the most controversial parts of the bill, and it may take a compromise in the end.

He spoke to reporters Nov. 20 during a press call with Jack Fisher, executive vice president of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, and Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, the executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks.

Supporting food stamps

Their main topic was food stamps, which Brown said is an essential part of the farm bill.

“I won’t support a bill that goes after those in need and down on their luck,” he said.

Currently, one out of six Americans, or 47 million, receives food stamps.

“There is no debating that food stamp usage is at an all-time high,” said Hamler-Fugitt. “We are witnessing an unprecedented increase of hunger in Ohio.”

She said cuts to SNAP that went into effect Nov. 1 have already been deeply felt.

Fisher said the nation needs a safe, secure, adequate and abundant food supply. He also called for market-based programs.

“We want market based commodity programs,” he said. “We want to grow and plant food based on what consumers want, not what the government is going to pay.”

The options

In their report on the conference, Zulauf and Coppess outline three most likely paths the bill will take: First, the conference committee could reach an agreement and the bill is enacted into law. Secondly, the committee does not reach an agreement, and the expired 2008 farm bill is once again extended.

Third, the committee does not reach an agreement and farm commodity support programs come to an end. The farm safety net would become the insurance program, meaning multiple-year losses would not be covered by the farm safety net.

The authors say the first two options appear most likely. They say there is equal probability conferees will get a bill done, as there is that they will not, and an extension would then be made.

There will be a farm bill … eventually

November 7th, 2013 Normand St-Pierre

Fiscal cliff … government shutdown … farm bill. Ooops, sorry, the farm bill hasn’t happened yet. But it will … eventually!

You know, after everything that has happened in Washington lately, I’m not sure that we really want a farm bill. Be careful for what you wish!

Remember that most representatives and senators who will be voting on the final version of the bill are pretty much clueless about farming in general, and dairying in particular. I am worried that the inevitable compromise bill reached between the House and the Senate will look like a Frankenstein patchwork of semi-idiotic ideas.

Favorable markets

Meanwhile, the markets are currently moving favorably for dairymen. It is always difficult at best to forecast prices more than a couple of months ahead, but judging on current Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) cash and futures prices, dairymen should be enjoying a pleasant pre-Christmas season.

Currently, nonfat dry milk stands at a multi-year high on the CME, trading above $1.80/pound. After a relatively steady fall in price throughout late summer and early fall, butter closed above $1,50/pound last week, gaining more than 5 cents/pound.

Meanwhile, cheddar blocks closed above $1.90/pound for the first time in more than six months. Hopefully, this rise in price will last a bit longer than the one we experienced last May, which lasted only four days above $1.90/pound.

Meanwhile, dry whey prices have been holding steady around 56 cents/pond. These prices explain the encouraging $18.22/cwt. Class III price that was just announced for October.

Both the Class III and Class IV futures for the next few months are very good — much higher than what was anticipated just a few months ago.

Other side

Of course, milk prices don’t mean a thing unless one looks at what it costs to produce milk. Because feed costs represent the largest cash costs on a typical dairy, we now have a nearly fanatic trance in regards to feed costs.

Although the markets of byproduct feeds do not operate in perfect harmony with the corn and soybean markets, they nevertheless are heavily influenced by them.

Corn prices

Last July, in spite of a temporary rise in the December corn futures, I stuck my neck out and predicted corn prices at $4/bushel in December. I made this forecast because I just don’t have much faith in preliminary U.S. Department of Agriculture reports.

However, I have immense faith in the productivity of American farmers; and they’re about to prove me right again. Last week, December corn futures closed at $4.27/bushel, down 13 cents/bushel for the week.

When all is suddenly done, the national corn crop should be in the neighborhood of 14.2 billion bushels this year. That’s a lot of corn! This drop in corn price is coupled with soybean meal November futures now trading under $400/ton.

These prices are indicative of a substantial reduction in feed costs and, thus, a significant improvement in milk margins. I know that this will be a temporary relief on most Ohio dairy farms.

Enjoy the season

Soon, we will be celebrating Thanksgiving — my favorite American holiday. You see, I was raised in Canada where Thanksgiving occurs in October and has nothing to do with the Pilgrims celebrating a successful harvest.

In fact, it’s really not a big holiday up there. I have learned to enjoy very much the American spirit surrounding Thanksgiving. This year, as usual, I will be eating far more turkey, mash potatoes, sweet potatoes and stuffing than I should.

Surrounded by my family and close friends, we will make sure to take a long moment to thank the American farmers for the bountiful and wholesome food they provide us from their work.Make sure that you spend time with your family even when there are cows to be milked … like every day.

Sense of urgency as farm bill conference begins

November 1st, 2013 Chris Kick

SALEM, Ohio — More than a year after the 2008 farm bill expired, a group of bipartisan House and Senate members finally sat down at the same table Oct. 30, to begin the process of conferencing a new five-year farm bill.

Members spent most of the opening session introducing themselves and praising each other for the opportunity to work across party lines for the good of farmers and the American people. And that’s the challenge at hand, as farmers and consumers demand action.

“It took us years to get here, but we are here,” said Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., who is chairman of the conference. “We can do it, we have to do it,” he said, adding, “let’s not take years to get it done.”

The sense of urgency was conveyed by most of the conferees, with some going as far as to say their own credibility in Washington depends on getting the farm bill done by year’s end.

Farm and Dairy watched the conference live via C-SPAN. Watch the full video here.

“We’re hopefully at the beginning of the end of this process,” said Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn. “This has been going on too long.”

Many twists

The “process” has taken some confusing twists and turns, but basically, the 2008 farm bill was set to expire in October, 2012. The Senate passed a new farm bill in June, 2012 while the House failed to put their farm bill to a vote.

After the 2008 farm bill expired, and faced with price programs that could have reverted back to the 1940s, Congress approved a last-minute extension of the 2008 farm bill in the last days of 2012, to run through October of 2013.

The Senate passed its second full five-year farm bill in June of 2013, while the House farm bill failed later the same month. In July, the House took an unprecedented move and voted to split the farm bill from the nutrition title, ultimately approving farm and food bills in separate pieces.

And now, the conference committee is charged with one giant task: Bring it altogether.

Something that works

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said he’s looking for “tangible and workable solutions,” for farmers as well as the hungry.

Brown issued a joint statement with U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeville, prior to the conference, in which the two shared bipartisan views on risk management and market fundamentals.

“We believe the farm bill conference must produce a bill that provides common sense, market-based resources that ensure economic stability for farmers and savings for taxpayers,” Gibbs and Brown both wrote.

Brown said he’s been across the state listening to farmers, and that he’s tried to make sure the farm bill reflects what they want.
For instance, many have told him they don’t want direct payments, and in the new bill, those are gone. The new bill also places more emphasis on farmers buying crop insurance and making it the primary crop protection program.

Hurdles to climb

But while there is much optimism on the committee, there are some tall hurdles. A big issue is how much to cut from food stamps, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

The House legislation could cut as much as $40 billion, and Senate Democrats say that’s too much.

Brown said the House’s cuts to SNAP would harm everyone, including children, working parents, the disabled and veterans.

“Our farmers feed the world,” he said. “They are proud to do that, but the House is seeking to break a decades old bond between farmers and those Americans who are going hungry.

Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Cleveland, said she’s “very concerned” about the proposed cuts to SNAP.

“We do not turn our backs on farmers seeking help with crop insurance, and we certainly should
not turn our backs on hungry Americans,” she said.

Other issues include language related to the Dairy Security Act — which would create a margin protection program and market stabilization program designed to help reduce milk price volatility. Although voluntary, some say the program amounts to supply management and fear it would hinder growth.

Interstate commerce

Additional issues include eligibility requirements for crop insurance and disaster assistance, and the Protect Interstate Commerce Act, an amendment by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, that would prevent states from enacting laws that limit what they sell, based on how those goods were raised or grown in other states.

The issue stems from new animal-rights laws enacted in California, that established a new standard of how egg-laying hens in that state must be raised.

King said the U.S. constitution prohibits “trade protectionism” between states, and he intends to defend that position.

“The bottom line of it is that no state should be allowed to regulate the production in other states,” he said. “Any state, including California, is free to regulate and even over-regulate their producers, but not to regulate the other 49 states.”

(Our coverage of the farm bill conference will continue, as the conference itself continues)

Farm bill conservation programs and the continuing resolution

October 31st, 2013 Other News

COLUMBUS — Expiration of the farm bill and the recently passed Continuing Resolution allows the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to offer some farm bill conservation programs, but not all, according to Dot Harris, Ohio’s Assistant State Conservationist for Programs.

In addition, the federal government shutdown suspended NRCS work on existing conservation program contracts, delaying certification of practices installed during that time frame. Conservation program contract holders that installed practices during the government shutdown should notify their local NRCS field office so NRCS can certify the practices as completed and process payments for those practices.

EQIP

The continuing resolution provides funding for the Environmental Incentives Program. In Ohio, NRCS will review and rank eligible EQIP applications submitted by Nov. 15 for funding. If additional EQIP funding is available, NRCS may offer additional application periods. Eligible agricultural producers can apply for EQIP anytime.

CSP

The continuing resolution provides funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program. Like EQIP, any eligible agricultural producer can apply for CSP anytime. In Ohio, NRCS has not yet announced an application selection date this year.

FRPP

The Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) The continuing resolution provides funding for the Farm and Ranch Lands

Protection Program

In Ohio, NRCS will announce the deadline for cooperating entities to submit applications this year.
Expired conservation programs. Several conservation program authorities lapsed when the farm bill expired. These include the Wetlands Reserve Program, Grasslands Reserve Program, Healthy Forest Reserve Program, and the Conservation Reserve Program. NRCS cannot accept new applications for these programs at this time. NRCS will continue to assist with agreements from prior years to complete easement closings and restoration activities and to ensure conservation practice implementation.

Farm bill conference committee to hold first public meeting

October 23rd, 2013 Other News

WASHINGTON — The first public meeting for the 2013 farm bill conference committee will be held Oct. 30 at 1 p.m. ET in Room 1100 of the Longworth House Office Building (the Ways and Means Committee Room).

The agenda for the meeting of conferees will include opening statements and discussion of H.R. 2642.

The Senate conferees include:

Democrats:

  • Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
  • Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)
  • Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)
  • Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
  • Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO)

Republicans:

  • Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee
  • Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS)
  • Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
  • Sen. John Boozman (R-AR)
  • Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND)

The House conferees include:

Republicans:

House Committee on Agriculture conferees:

  • Rep. Frank D. Lucas (R-OK), Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee
  • Rep. Steve King (R-IA)
  • Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX)
  • Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL)
  • Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-TX)
  • Rep. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA)
  • Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA)
  • Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR)
  • Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL)
  • Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD)
  • Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA)
  • Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL)

Leadership conferee:

  • Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL)

House Foreign Affairs Committee conferees:

  • Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman
  • Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA)

House Ways & Means Committee conferees:

  • Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), Chairman
  • Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX)

Democrats:

House Committee on Agriculture conferees:

  • Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), Ranking Member of House Agriculture Committee
  • Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC)
  • Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA)
  • Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN)
  • Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR)
  • Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA)
  • Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA)
  • Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-CA)
  • Rep. Filemon Vela (D-TX)

Leadership conferee:

  • Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH)

House Foreign Affairs Committee conferee:

  • Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ranking Member

House Ways & Means Committee conferee:

  • Rep. Sandy Levin (D-MI), Ranking Member

U.S. House appoints farm bill conferees

October 14th, 2013 Chris Kick

SALEM, Ohio — After months of delay, the U.S. House of Representatives has named its appointees to conference a new farm bill. The 2008 farm bill expired in September after a nine-month extension.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced the appointees Oct. 12, commending House members for working to cut spending and help strengthen the nation’s agriculture and food stamp programs.

“The Farm Bill extension measures passed by the House include much-needed reforms that cut spending and help strengthen our agriculture and food stamp programs,” he said in a released statement.

Related: Amid shutdown, what about the farm bill?

Some background

The House approved a separate farm-only bill July 11 and a nutrition-only bill Sept. 19, breaking the marriage between the two measures for the first time since they were combined.

The House nutrition bill seeks a $40 billion cut to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) over five years, a contentious issue among Democrats and some Republicans, who said the cuts were too deep.

The Senate approved sending its version of the $500 billion comprehensive farm bill to conference July 19, and has been waiting for the House to name its conferees.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., said he is “pleased to be at this point in the farm bill process” where negotiations with the Senate are about to occur.

“This has been a long and challenging process, but that does not discount the product we have achieved with billions of dollars in savings and reforms, and policy that works for all of agriculture all across the country,” he said in a released statement.

Moving ahead

Farm groups across the nation called the House appointment of conferees a sign of progress. But, at the same time, there’s a strong feeling that it’s overdue.

“Appointing conferees might be a sign that, after repeatedly delaying and undermining the agriculture committee’s work, Republican leaders are finally getting serious about the farm bill,” said Ranking House Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn.

He said he’s still hopeful Republicans and Democrats can get a new five-year farm bill finished by year’s end, but, he’s also concerned, because some of the House’s appointments as conferees are outside the agriculture committee.

“Conferees are committed to working together and getting a farm bill done but bringing divisive resolutions to a vote and appointing conferees outside the (House) Agriculture Committee has made our jobs a lot harder,” he said.

Who they are

The House’s Republican appointees are: Representatives Frank D. Lucas of Oklahoma, Steve King of Iowa, Randy Neugebauer of Texas, Mike Rogers of Alabama, Michael Conaway of Texas, Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson of Pennsylvania.; Austin Scott of Georgia, Rick Crawford of Arizona, Martha Roby of Alabama, Kristi Noem of South Dakota, Jeff Denham of California, Rodney Davis of Illinois, Steve Southerland of Florida, Ed Royce of California, Tom Marino of Pennsylvania, Dave Camp of Michigan, and Sam Johnson of Texas.

House Democrat appointees are: Representatives Marcia Fudge of Ohio, Collin Peterson of Minnesota, Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, Jim Costa of California, Tim Walz of Minnesota, Kurt Schrader of Oregon, Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, Suzan DelBene of Washington, Gloria Negrete McLeod of California, Filemon Vela of Texas, Eliot Engel of New York, and Sandy Levin of Michigan.

Amid shutdown, what about the farm bill?

October 4th, 2013 Chris Kick

WOOSTER, Ohio — All the Washington talk lately has been on the shutdown, which began Oct. 1 after Congress failed to reach a budget to fund the federal government.

But buried within that battle is an issue with significant implications for rural America: the farm bill. The last bill, the 2008 farm bill, was extended to run through September, 2013.

Now that the extension has expired, uncertainty is the one thing farmers can be certain about.

As far as actions go, the Senate has appointed its conferees to conference the Senate version with members of the House. The Senate re-affirmed its appointees Oct. 1 and said it’s ready for a conference.

Uncertainty abounds

Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D- Mich., said the recent shutdown has created “a double whammy of uncertainty for the economy and for the 16 million Americans who work in this country because of agriculture.”

Stabenow said the Senate has twice passed a comprehensive, bipartisan farm bill that will create jobs, reform agriculture policy and reduce the deficit by tens of billions of dollars.

“It’s time to finally get this done,” she said.

The Senate conferees for the majority include: Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.; Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Max Baucus, D-Mont., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; and Michael Bennet, D-Colo.

It is unclear what the U.S. House of Representatives plans to do, or whether they plan to appoint conferees. House members passed separate pieces of the traditional farm bill, one to fund the farm titles (July 11), and a seperate bill to fund the nutrition programs (Sept. 19), while cutting food stamps by nearly $40 billion.

Tamara Hinton, communications director for the House Agriculture Committee, said the next step is for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to name his farm bill conferees.

She said she is “uncertain when that will take place, but it’s expected to be done in short order.”

Immediate action

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson, and other farm group leaders, say it needs done now.

In an Oct. 2 letter to Boehner, Johnson said it’s up to the speaker to name his appointees and get the bill conferenced.

“The fate of the farm bill is now in your hands,” Johnson wrote. “This is an opportunity for you and the House to demonstrate that Congress is still able to get things done.”

Johnson, like most other farm organizations, said the farm bill is an important issue for the nation’s farmers, ranchers, fishermen, consumers and hungry citizens.

 Dates that matter?

Although Sept. 30 was the official farm bill expiration date, the end of the year could be more important, when milk policies could potentially revert back to the 1940s-era, causing a major price spike.

As for crop farmers, their funding is on a crop-year basis, so the current year’s crop is covered by last year’s farm bill extension.

Carl Zulauf, an agricultural economics professor in Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, said we could see a bill that combines many different things.

“Based on what I am hearing and reading, it looks increasingly likely that we will see a bill that encompasses the spending resolutions for the 2014 (current) fiscal year and the debt ceiling increase,” he wrote in an email to Farm and Dairy. “It is therefore likely that we will see other items of legislation merged into this bill.  This farm bill could be one of those pieces of legislation.

“I think if this happens, the farm bill will likely be a one- or two-year extension (not a new farm bill) and I would expect some cut in the farm program spending baseline in order to help meet budget constraints, such as a reduction in direct payments. It would be hard, but not impossible, to write a new farm bill in this short of time, and given the other pressing aspects of such an encompassing legislation. If a farm bill extension is not included in the encompassing legislation, then I am not sure what to expect in regard to farm policy.”

Shutdown’s effect

Andrew Novakovich, agricultural economist and farm bill expert at Cornell University, said the shutdown itself does not affect passage of the next farm bill, but he said the shutdown does “add toxins to a political environment in which compromise feels almost impossible.”

There will, inevitably, be consequences from the shutdown.

“A large number of federal workers will get unpaid leave, visitors to D.C. and national parks will find doors barred shut, and all kinds of folks and businesses will find out how much we rely on a myriad of federal reports that are easy to take for granted,” he said.

“Retirement programs that calculate benefits based on changes to the Consumer Price Index won’t have a new estimate of changes to consumer prices. CME futures markets that cash settle against a federal estimated price won’t have a cash price announced. Farmers that had planned to finish that paperwork in their local FSA office will find the door locked.”

House passes nutrition-only bill, but clock’s still ticking on farm bill

September 24th, 2013 Other News

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives passed the nutrition portion of the former full farm bill, H.R. 3102, the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act of 2013, by a vote of 217-210 Sept. 19, setting the stage for lawmakers to finally move to a farm bill conference.

Farm bill programs are currently operating under a one-year extension of the 2008 farm bill that expires Sept. 30, reverting farm policy back to permanent law.

Cuts in SNAP

The legislation, championed by Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor, would cut $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the program formerly known as food stamps. The bill was strongly opposed by House Democrats and some Republicans who charged it would increase hunger by ending benefits for nearly 4 million people in 2014.

The measure also faces a veto threat from the White House. After the vote, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the bill “stands no chance of becoming law.”

Vilsack said the “vote was a highly partisan step that does nothing to promote a bipartisan, comprehensive farm bill.”

Still hopeful

House Ag Committee Chairman Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., remains hopeful we’ll see a farm bill this year.

“I remain committed to getting a five-year farm bill on the books this year,” he said in a prepared statement after the vote. “Today’s vote was another step toward that goal.”

But Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, decried the politics of the largely party-line vote.

“We have never before seen this kind of partisanship injected into a farm bill,” she said, calling the bill “a monumental waste of time.”

Sept. 30 deadline

Few people believe a bill will be passed before month’s end.

“It’s obvious that we will not have a new farm bill in place by the time the current one expires,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman in remarks presented Sept. 19 to the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City.

“The only extension Farm Bureau supports is a five-year extension that looks a lot like the new farm bill that is working its way through Congress,” he added.

It’s not clear that a conference committee would be able to look at both the farm-only and nutrition-only bills on the same table with the comprehensive Senate farm bill. According to D.C.-based farm journalist Jerry Hagstrom, the newly passed nutrition bill doesn’t contain a measure to merge that bill with the farm-only bill previously approved.

No conferees have been appointed as of presstime.

U.S. Senate ready to conference the farm bill

July 19th, 2013 Chris Kick

SALEM, Ohio — The Senate approved sending its version of the farm bill to conference with the U.S. House of Representatives, during Senate floor action July 19.

“We are, in fact, now officially sending back our Senate Bill to the House and requesting a conference on the farm bill,” said Sen. Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., during her floor speech.

“We have produced a product that is comprehensive, bipartisan, balanced, that addresses the agricultural needs and concerns of our country and of a five-year farm bill that addresses food security and conservation of our soil and land and water,” Stabenow said.

The full Senate approved its version of the $500 billion farm bill 66-27 June 10. The House failed its version of a similar, comprehensive farm bill June 20.

But July 11, the House broke with tradition and approved a farm-only farm bill by a 216-208 vote, with the intent of passing a nutrition-only bill at a later date.

Washington media report the nutrition-only bill is still being formed, and it is not clear when that bill might come to the House floor.

Farm and food

In a press call with reporters July 15, Stabenow said neither the Senate nor the president would consider a farm bill without food stamps being included.

“We could not pass that through the Senate, nor would the president of the United States sign that bill,” she said. “It would be a very short-term approach that would end the coalition between urban and rural communities.”

Stabenow said she is eager for the conference between the House and Senate to begin, so they can hopefully get a farm bill done while Congress is still in session, and before the 2008 Farm Bill extension expires, in October.

“There’s not a lot of time,” she said. “There’s enough time to do it but we have got to get started.”

She said the conference will be an important step in finishing the farm bill, and that she’s confident the House and Senate will get the farm bill done.

House splits nutrition title out of farm bill; farm-only bill passes 216-208

July 12th, 2013 Susan Crowell

WASHINGTON — After suffering a rather stinging defeat the first time the farm bill came to the House floor for a vote, House Republicans regrouped and bowed to pressure to ungroup the federal food and nutrition programs from the farm legislation.

The result was passage of the revamped H.R. 2642, another five-year farm bill that did not include the nutrition title. While the farm bill was on the floor, it was debated under a closed rule, which means no amendments were considered.

The bill passed July 11, by a 216-208 vote.

Voting for the farm-only farm bill were 216 Republicans and 0 Democrats; Voting against the bill were 12 Republicans and 194 Democrats. Eleven members did not vote.

The Ohio and Pennsylvania delegation members all voted along party lines.

When approved by the conference committee and voted on once again by both the House and the Senate, the legislation will repeal and replace the permanent law for commodities that dates to 1938 and 1949.

The vote breakdown is here: http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2013/roll353.xml

“Our farm and food stamp programs need reform,” said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in a statement after the vote. “The status quo is unacceptable, which is why I voted against most of the farm bills of the past two decades, and supported this one.”

What about food stamps?

Rep. Frank Lucas, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, said the nutrition title, Title IV, that was removed from the bill that passed, will go back to the ag committee for round two.

The goal, he said during a speech on the floor prior to the vote, is to craft a bill that can be passed on the House floor, and then both the farm bill and the nutrition bill will go to the conference committee to reconcile with the Senate’s farm bill, which is a single piece of legislation that passed easily with a vote of 66 to 27.

He also warned, however, that if a nutrition title is not finalized, the program’s reform could also be taken up in the appropriations process, specifically by the ag appropriations subcommittee chaired by Robert Aderholt, R-Ala.

‘Laughable.’

Rep. Collin C. Peterson, D-Minn., the minority leader on the House ag committee, said splitting the farm bill sets the stage for “draconian cuts to nutrition programs and eliminating future farm bills altogether.”

The House Majority’s decision “would be laughable if it weren’t true,” Peterson said in a statement after the vote.

“I firmly believed that if we could find a way to remove the partisan amendments adopted during the House farm bill debate, we would be able to advance a bipartisan bill, conference with the Senate and see it signed into law this year. Now all that is in question.”

On the same days as the vote, a group of 17 Senators, including Sen. Bob Casey Jr., D-Pa., sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., urging him to oppose any split in the legislation during conferencing.

The Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013.

Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scoring of the bill.