What’s Next for the Farm Bill?

With the death of the congressional Super Committee, efforts to renew the Farm Bill have hit a wall. Acknowledging the near impossibility of crafting new legislation by the end of the year, House and Senate agricultural leaders have postponed the final debate until 2012.

However, some farm lobbyists have offered predictions about what the 2012 Farm Bill might look like, and many of their forecasts are gloomy.

A major point of contention in the proposed Farm Bill was the $23 billion in agricultural spending reductions. Many critics complained that those cuts came disproportionately from nutritional programs and conservation programs while leaving intact major federal subsidies for the corn and soybean industries.

Many experts have predicted that these major cuts will remain in place and could even increase. The House and Senate Committees are likely to use the $23 billion cuts as the starting point when they take up debate again next year, meaning that more cuts could be added, further reducing federal support for major agricultural programs.

However, one of the potentially positive results of the failure of the Super Committee is the end of congressional secrecy. According to Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), the ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, “the chairs of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees have worked on a farm fill proposal, largely without my input and the input of the other members of the two committees. The last proposal was so ‘secret’ that I still have not seen final legislative language and scores.”

Some commentators have speculated that major crop lobbyists, who hoped to foist spending cuts onto other programs in order to preserve their subsidies, pushed this secrecy. While it is no guarantee, some farm advocates hope that increased transparency may result in a fairer distribution of austerity burdens.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer