Farm Bill in Chaos

After expirations, extensions, and several missed deadlines, the expired 2008 Farm Bill was temporarily renewed for nine months, protecting consumers from a major price increase. The temporary extension, however, has not solved the farm bill stalemate, which appears as divisive as ever.

For the past several months, the farm bill has been paralyzed in Congress. Despite progress in the Senate and in the House Agriculture Committee, partisan politics kept the bill from receiving a floor vote in the House.

Facing a massive rise in milk prices with the expiration of dairy programs, Congress finally took action by renewing key elements of the 2008 Farm Bill. However, in a bitter irony for many farmers, the failure of the current deficit-conscious Congress to pass a new bill will likely result in significant spending increases (largely due to the extension of expensive direct payment subsidies).

While the extension allows for a costly continuation of direct payments, there are several major farm programs that did not make the cut. Emergency relief for livestock farmers (many of whom are still suffering from the ongoing drought), funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program, organic farming funding, renewable energy programs, rural development programs, and the Beginning Farmers and Rancher program will all cease in 2013, the collective victims of congressional dysfunction.

In addition, while the failed 2012 Farm Bill will likely serve as the framework for 2013’s negotiations, it is likely that the Congressional Budget Office will issue calls for increased farm spending cuts in March, meaning that a few months delay last year could be very costly to American farmers.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer