Farm Bill Stalled During Election Cycle

After months of political wrangling over the federal deficit and agricultural spending, many farmers hoped that 2012 would open with swift action taken by Washington to ratify the Farm Bill, whose passage would ensure that farmers have access to much needed federal support and farm loans. However, as the 2012 election cycle begins, many farmers are feeling increasingly pessimistic about the likelihood of the bill’s passage, with many increasingly worried about their ability to obtain much needed federally backed farm loans in the face of the Farm Bill’s congressional limbo.
The current Farm Bill, officially known as the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, focused heavily on rural development and renewable energy, offering grants and farm loans to support the creation of renewable energy systems. In addition, the bill reformed current agricultural lending practices. Several of its provisions, for example, increased borrowing limits for farmers, increasing the ability of agricultural producers to obtain needed farm loans. Of particular concern to many farmers were provisions dealing with emergency loans. The 2008 Farm Bill expanded access to federal emergency funding and recovery-focused farm loans, allowing many farmers to survive the recent nationwide string of extreme weather.
Despite the necessity of many of these federal programs, they are in danger of shutting down due to the Farm Bill’s impending expiration. This shutdown threatens many farmers’ access to farm loans, emergency funding, and energy grants. The charged political climate of Washington, many farmers and politicians say, makes it extremely unlikely that a new Farm Bill could be passed by the end of the year. While some politicians are discussing an emergency extension of the 2008 Farm Bill, many worry that the failure to write a new bill could lead to major program delays and could prevent many farmers and ranchers from receiving the farm loans they need.
Several politicians have released statements decrying the gridlock in Congress. Indiana Representative Marlin Stutzman, for example, reiterated that he and his colleagues were sent to Washington to do their jobs and fight for the interests of their constituents, who rely on access to farm loans and federal agricultural support.
Farm bill extensions are nothing new in Washington and have been used several times in the last two decades. In 2007, however, the extension led to massive bureaucratic headaches and caused major delays in the implementation of vital programs, including major farm loans programs. In addition to creating bureaucratic red tape and funding delays, the failure to renew the Farm Bill could create significant insecurity among farmers, who use federal programs as a bellwether. Without guaranteed access to federal programs and federal farm loans, many farmers are currently in a state of limbo, forced to prepare for their 2013 planting season with little idea of how future agricultural programs will shape up.