Farm Bill Programs Funded Through March

Despite the well-publicized failure of Congress to pass a new farm bill, some farmers remain cheered by the fact that most major farm programs are funded until 2013.

For the past year, farmers and farm advocacy groups have pressured Congress to finally take action on a new farm bill. Despite more than two years of political rhetoric, lawmakers in Washington had taken precious few steps to actually pass a five-year farm bill.

While the Senate finally took the requisite steps to pass a bipartisan farm bill (doing so at the end of May), the House has spent the summer dithering. The House Agriculture Committee passed a draft of the farm bill in July, but House leadership has refused to act on this, preferring to wait until after the 2012 election to vote on the vital bill.

On Monday, farmers across the country face the resumption of 1949 federal farm policy. This policy would drastically reduce federal farm subsidies, significantly increase prices, and mandate production caps. In essence, it would destroy American agriculture as we know it.

However, a quirk in the farm bill may prevent complete disaster. The current bill’s mandate covers all crops planted before the bill expires. As a result, about 75 percent of federal farm programs are funded through March (including crop insurance and Food Stamps). Dairy farmers and farmers facing drought conditions, however, will lose most of their federal support.

Farm policy experts also believe that either a new five-year bill or a temporary extension will be passed during the lame duck session. According to the head of the Washington-based agricultural consulting firm World Perspectives, an Obama victory in November would likely result in a new farm bill being passed in the lame duck session, while a Romney victory could result in a temporary extension while Congress and the president reevaluate changes for farm policy in 2013.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer