Farm Bill Expiration Looms

With the September 30 expiration of the 2008 Farm Bill looming and Congress appearing no closer to passing a replacement farm bill, farmers across the country are nervously watching the calendar and hoping that an eleventh hour protest on the Washington Mall can jumpstart the bill’s negotiations.

For the past several months, rural news has revolved around the farm bill debate. For most of the year, Congress was more than willing to discuss the importance of agricultural production to the American economy, but less than willing to actually risk the political capital it would take to pass a new bill.

While the Senate finally passed their version of the farm bill in May, this draft appears to have little chance of passing the House of Representatives (largely because the GOP leadership is insistent on steeper cuts to the Food Stamps Program). In the House, a draft has passed the Agriculture Committee, but has been kept from the floor by Speaker Boehner, who is worried that an internal revolt by GOP fiscal conservatives could derail the bill and injure his party as it enters the election season.

Without a new bill (or a temporary extension of the current bill), the situation in the agriculture community looks grim. The last permanent piece of farm legislation was passed in 1949. Without a new bill to replace current farm legislation, this relic from the 40’s will become the new heart of agricultural policy.

Farmers have much to fear from this scenario. The 1949 bill indexes crop prices at pre-WWI levels, an index that would cause wheat prices to skyrocket to $18 a bushel (more than twice the current rate) and would put significant limits on production across the country. In addition, it contains no provisions for nutritional programs (meaning the elimination of the Food Stamps Program) or conservation programs, putting the hungry and the environment in jeopardy.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer