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Farm bill set to expire Monday night

Farm bill conferees to be named soon? Farm bill to expire Monday. Will country revert to 1949 law?

The 2008 farm bill extension will be in effect until the end of September. That means no farm bill will be in place when we all wake up next Tuesday.

With producers and ranchers already looking to prepare for 2014 – and having had literally years to cobble together a new farm bill – House leadership has again been unable, or unwilling, to shepherd enough votes to pass new legislation by deadline. The chances for meeting the deadline only worsened once a partisan fight heated up over funding the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). Also lurking is the specter of a nasty debt ceiling fight in coming weeks.

Without a further extension of the 2008 farm bill – something Democrats insist they’re against – agricultural law will revert back to the 1949 farm bill. If that is allowed, consumers can expect to see increased food prices in coming months.

On Thursday (Sept. 26), Minnesota Rep. Tim Walz went to the House floor and expressed common frustrations surrounding the new farm bill. “The one thing I hear from my constituents when I talk to them out in southern Minnesota is: ‘Is it so much to ask you folks just to do your job?’ As the drama swirls and the brinkmanship goes, and it’s déjà vu all over again, certain things shouldn’t be that difficult…

“Four months ago, the Senate (passed its version of the farm bill). Four months ago, the House Agriculture Committee did it. That wasn’t good enough. We came to this floor, we created drama, we tried to make being hungry a sin – and now you’ve got a monstrosity.”

Walz was referring to the House Republicans having voted to trim $40 billion from nutrition programs covered by the farm bill. The Senate version would cut only $4 billion – a wide gap and sure sticking point once conference begins.

However, while pressing, that is only a short-term worry. Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, has been warning farmers that they should be very concerned about the way the House went about passing that nutrition bill. In recent weeks, he has repeatedly said that the separating of a decades-old coalition of commodity and nutrition program interests is a foreshadowing of future GOP attempts to do away with farm programs altogether.

More from Peterson here.

A Friday (September 27) House vote is expected tomerge the separate commodity and nutrition titles. If passed, House farm bill conferees can be named.

Hembree Brandon, Farm Press editor, reports that during a late-September visit to Mississippi State University in Starkville, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said agriculture research programs could be derailed without a farm bill.


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“Failure to pass farm legislation -- which has been embroiled in a wrangle over cuts to the food assistance programs that have been the major component of past farm bills -- could not only have an adverse impact on agricultural research programs, Vilsack said, but could also jeopardize international relations,” reports Brandon.

Vilsack pointed to the U.S./Brazil cotton case. “Brazil got a successful ruling (in the cotton suit) from the World Trade organization,” he said, with resulting potential for $850 million per year in retaliatory levies. Those retaliations have been held in abeyance by payments of $12 million per month by the U.S., “but we will lose authority to make those payments unless we can pass a farm bill and resolve the problem.”

Read Brandon’s full report here.

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