As of this afternoon, the first conference meeting between the House and Senate to discuss the Farm Bill is scheduled for next Wednesday, the 30th. As you probably know already, the House FB did not include a nutrition title. Instead, they separated the FB into two bills- one for farming and one for nutrition. The House FB cuts $40 billion from SNAP and the Senate version cuts about $4 billion. So that’s a huge gap that will be very hard to close up. I anticipate that the final number will be more towards the Senate’s but we'll see. Unfortunately, I believe that debate will be brutal and long.
Another FB extension is possible and this one will probably be a two-year extension instead of a one-year extension so that legislators can avoid talking about it during the 2014-midterm elections. Remember- legislators DO NOT want to cut food stamps in an election year. Secretary Vilsack has come out against another extension, although that probably means very little to legislators at this point.
Although the extension of the 2008 FB expired on September 30th, most of the commodities programs are funded through December 31st, so that's the "real" deadline. If we don’t get a FB or an extension by December 31st, then all ag policy in the U.S. will revert back to the 1938 and 1949 laws. For reference, the price of milk would probably quadruple. So yikes.
Going on what the two bills look like right now, once we do get an actual FB, dairy production controls are likely to be preserved under a new Dairy Market Stabilization Program. Any final deal is likely to preserve crop insurance, while making several tweaks to the program: means-testing for farmers earning more than about $750,000 annually; conservation compliance requirements; cuts to the administrative subsidy for companies; cuts to the premium subsidy for farmers. The means-testing proposal would likely cut about 10% of farmers out of the program. Also, there are still a lot of regional differences that will continue to be a problem. Southern crop producers (peanuts, rice, cotton) prefer that planted acres be the base, versus Midwestern crop producers (corn, beans, wheat, etc.) who prefer a historical base for support programs.
That's it in a nutshell. Please continue calling and writing your legislators to encourage them to pass a FB. We'll get this done eventually!! Take care.
National Grange Legislative Director