The Agricultural Act of 2014 (P.L. 113-79), or “2014 Farm Bill” authorizes the continuation of agricultural and other programs of the Department of Agriculture through September 30, 2018. Since the Great Depression in the 1930’s Congress has typically adopted a comprehensive Farm Bill every 5 years. However, since the mid-1990’s Congress has struggled to timely adopt farm bills.
- To save budget dollars the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 (P.L. 103-66) reduced and extended many commodity support provisions beyond 1995. Thus the 1995 Farm Bill wasn’t signed into law until April 1996.
- What should have been a 2007 Farm Bill was not enacted until June 2008. It required six temporary extensions of most programs in the 2002 Farm Bill.
- The 2008 Farm Bill had to be extended into 2013 and Congress adopted the 2014 Farm Bill in February of that year.
With farmers under financial pressures due to extraordinary low commodity prices farm organizations across America are gearing up for battle for the upcoming Farm Bill. The next Farm Bill will need to authorize programs for crop years 2019-2023. Ideally, a new farm bill should be adopted before any new crop harvest. The earliest crop harvest in 2019 will occur in mid-to-late May of 2019 when wheat harvest begins in South Texas. Dependent upon the complexities of policies adopted in the new Farm Bill the U.S. Department of Agriculture would likely need anywhere from 9-months-to-1-year to implement the Farm Bill. That means for the next farm bill, Congress should reauthorize farm programs by roughly September 2018.
The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) is among leading farm organizations including the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), American Soybean Association, NationalCotton Council, USA Rice Federation, National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) and National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) that are encouraging their respective members to begin developing policies for the next Farm Bill. Zippy Duvall, President, AFBF posted a blog late last month to their members stating, “…it is time to sound the bell for preparation (of the 2018 Farm Bill).
Mary Kay Thatcher, senior director of congressional relations with AFBF, told Hoosier Ag Today in a recent interview that their organization is anticipating testimony before the House and Senate Ag Committees as early as next spring.
Thatcher explained “..we’ve heard from our cotton producers and our dairy folks, that they don’t think the new programs that were put into effect are working for them. Fairly low participation in both programs and most folks feeling again like they just don’t provide an adequate safety net.”
According to Thatcher, here are some of the biggest challenges in writing a new farm bill:
“Challenges of the Farm Bill”
- #1 Not enough money – “I think one of the biggest issues we’re going to face in the next Farm Bill is we’re going to have less money to write the Farm Bill than we had when we wrote the 2014, and obviously, prices are going to be much lower than they were then. So, you know, when it’s really a tough time and we need additional dollars, we’re going to have to find a way to do it with fewer instead of more.”
- #2 Program imbalances – Cotton producers & dairy folks don’t think the new programs are working for them. Low participation in both programs and feeling like they just don’t provide an adequate safety net.
- #3 Crop insurance – will continue to be in the bullseye, primarily because it costs more than a commodity program or the conservation program (in October of last year lawmakers included a 10-year, $3 billion cut in the federally subsidized crop insurance program in a two-year budget package. The provisions were eventually dropped due to the insistense of farm-state lawmakers.)
- #4 Separating SNAP from Farm Bill – nutrition programs (food stamps among them), the Farm Bureau says that simply can’t happen. “About 79% of the cost of the farm bill is the nutrition programs, but we know that especially in the House of Representatives that it’s largely urban, that if we split nutrition and farm programs apart, we simply don’t have the votes to pass an adequate farm bill with a good safety net.