Farmers Uncertain About Farm Bill Programs

With the current farm bill set to expire on Monday, farmers across the country are uncertain of the exact nature of the expiration’s effect on agricultural programs. While many farm programs are funded through March 2013, roughly one-fourth of farm programs may face budgetary shut downs without a replacement farm bill.

Despite more than a year of political platitudes, lawmakers in Washington were unwilling to seriously discuss a new, five-year farm bill. While the Senate passed a bipartisan bill in May, they were unwilling to consider a temporary farm bill extension or the passage of an emergency farm support bill in the event of the delay of the five-year bill. While GOP leadership in the House talked a big game about the importance of the farm bill, they deliberately kept a House Agriculture Committee draft from a floor vote for fear of revolt by fiscal conservatives and Tea Party members bent on severe food stamps cuts.

With the current farm bill expired and Congress adjourned until after the November election, farmers have accepted that they cannot expect new farm legislation until the end of the year. While no one expects that permanent 1949 farm legislation (that has now technically gone into effect) will remain the law of the land, farmers are unsure of what farm programs will be continued when a new farm bill is passed.

In addition, many farmers are unclear about what farm programs will continue to be funded until the end of 2012. This is in part due to the complexity of the farm bill, which contains some programs that have mandatory funding and some that have discretionary funding (in addition to some programs that apply to crop years, rather than calendar years).

While farmers are sure that food stamps funding and crop insurance programs will continue, they have few guarantees on other programs and are anxiously awaiting Congress’ return to Washington.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer