Staff for both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees are trying to resolve outstanding differences in their respective versions of the bill prior to the lame duck session of Congress that will follow the mid-term elections on Nov. 6. The optimistic forecast would be to have compromises worked out for the farm bill Conference Committee to approve after Congress returns on Nov. 13. Even under this best-case scenario, the Committee would have only three weeks, including the week of Thanksgiving, to prepare a Conference Report that both chambers could vote on before the 115th Congress adjourns. This could happen on Dec. 7, when the Continuing Resolution funding government operations in FY-2019 will expire. A new CR could be passed extending funding through Dec. 21, which would give the farm bill effort another two weeks.
Major obstacles on which the “Big Four”— Agriculture Committee Chairmen Roberts and Conaway and Ranking Members Stabenow and Peterson – have not been able to agree include changes the House bill makes to the Commodities, Conservation and Nutrition Titles of the 2014 Agricultural Act. In Title 1 (Commodities), the House would eliminate PLC and ARC payments for base acres that weren’t planted to a program crop in 2009 to 2017 and use the savings to allow farmers who experienced a 20-week drought during 2008-2012 to update their PLC and ARC payment yields. Depending on how analysis of these provisions is done, an estimated seven million acres of “underplanted” base would lose payments, while farmers in 417 counties in west Texas and neighboring states would receive about $500 million over ten years, primarily through higher cotton yields under the PLC program. The Title II (Conservation) change would merge the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) into EQIP, reducing the cost of supporting conservation practices on working lands. The major change in Title IV (Nutrition) is the tightening of work requirements and transfer of funds to establish state job training programs.
The 115th Congress will adjourn once funding for FY-2019 is approved in December. If a new bill cannot be completed by then and, faced with expiration of the current dairy program after December 31 (the so-called “dairy cliff”), an extension of the current 2014 Farm Bill would be necessary. This would most likely be for at least one year rather than kicking it to the new Congress through a short-term extension. There has been some talk of a three-year extension to get farm legislation beyond the next elections—and hopefully beyond the current volatile trade conditions facing U.S. soybean farmers.
Source: ASA-- American Soybean Association