Farm Bill Faces Uncertain Future

With the current farm bill set to expire on Monday and with Congress having adjourned to focus on the 2012 election, federal farm programs and agricultural policies face an uncertain future over the next several months.

For the past year, the 2012 Farm Bill has dominated rural news. Despite the best efforts of farm advocacy groups and rural lawmakers, the farm bill has remained stalled in Congress since July. While the Senate passed a bipartisan version of the bill in May, the House has refused to bring the bill to the floor and House GOP leadership has used every parliamentary trick available to prevent a vote.

While Speaker of the House John Boehner claims that the House did not have the required votes to pass the bill, political insiders disagree. A bipartisan coalition of rural representatives claims that an informal vote whip conducted shortly before the House adjourned showed more than enough votes to pass a new farm bill. Many of these representatives (and political pundits in Washington) believe that Boehner delayed the bill to appeal to fiscal conservatives and Tea Party supporters upset with continued Food Stamps funding.

The effect of the expiration of the current farm bill is difficult to determine. For dairy farmers the hurt will be immediate as major subsidies for the dairy industry dry up on October 1. Farmers still facing the lingering summer drought will also feel the pain as natural disaster aid is cut off.

While most experts believe that some sort of farm bill will be passed by the end of the year, it remains unclear whether that bill will be a five-year farm bill or a temporary extension of the current bill, leaving farmers to potentially face months of continued uncertainty.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer