Getting a compromise farm bill is far from certain. If Congress does proceed to a conference committee, the challenges to get a compromise that can pass both houses of Congress are huge.
If the House could not accept a farm bill proposal with spending cuts to the nutrition program of $20 billion over 10 years – it seems unlikely that they would approve a bill with cuts somewhere near the $4 billion contained in the Senate bill.
However, if the conference committee can come up with a bill that satisfies the conferees, the bill could bypass the full House and Senate votes if it is attached to some must-pass bill like a continuing resolution.
That may be the only way to get a new farm bill through Congress.
A possible government shutdown is now only days away. The end of the fiscal year is fast approaching and Congress has not passed a continuing resolution to keep the government running past September 30.
The House is preparing a bill that would fund the government through mid-December but it is expected to include a defunding of the Affordable Care Act, which has little chance of being approved by the Senate or signed by the President. Unless leaders in the House of Representatives cancel next week’s recess, there is essentially no time left to get this thing ironed out.
Other news from Washington:
- The crop insurance program is under attack. At a rally on Capital Hill Wisconsin Representatives Tom Petri and Ron Kind called for policymakers to revamp the crop insurance program claiming that the existing program guarantees insurance companies a 14 percent profit at taxpayer expense, and Bloomberg News carried a three-part series criticizing the program. Supporters of the program argue that the program allows farmers to manage risks before, not after problems develop, which saves taxpayers money. There is still a chance that Congress will make changes to the crop insurance program as part of any new farm bill.
- A panel of three federal judges upheld California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, which means the law can be implemented. Fuel companies had sued arguing that the standard discriminated against biofuels produced in other states. The standard requires fuel to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the emissions are calculated on the fuel’s entire life cycle.
- USDA says it will not investigate the discovery of genetically modified alfalfa in a non-gmo field in Washington. Earlier this year the discovery of gmo wheat in Oregon triggers an extensive investigation, but the gmo wheat was a type that had not been approved for commercial production. GMO alfalfa has been deregulated and available for commercial sale since 2011. But the gmo contamination is a problem because some importing countries, including Japan and Saudi Arabia, refuse to accept contaminated alfalfa. Since alfalfa is cross pollinated by bees, preventing gmo contamination is almost impossible.
- The new farm bills being considered may violate world trade rules and trigger challenges at the World Trade Organization according to some major business groups. The House bill links support payments to actual planted acreage which would likely be successfully challenged at the WTO. A successful WTO challenge would probably lead to retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports. The business groups making the claim include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Foreign Trade Council.