FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Unless Congress passes a new farm bill, America’s farmers will find themselves working with a law passed in 1949.
The current law, the 2008 farm bill, expires Sept. 30, and with it:
• Initiatives for agricultural research and extension
• Nutrition programs
• Price and income supports to production agriculture and the nutrition programs
• Assistance to rural communities
• Conservation programs
• Marketing and trade of U.S. farm products
• Financing for farmers, agribusinesses, and communities.
It’s the latest in a line of temporary bills passed since the last permanent farm bill, the Agricultural Act of 1949 (See: http://bit.ly/12Wi6VO).
A product of a much different social and economic landscape, the 1949 law would, among other things, give the secretary of agriculture the power to set price controls and production limits for farmers.
“If no new legislation is passed, then the default legislation would be the 1949 farm bill with budget busting-levels of support, something that neither taxpayers nor consumers would tolerate,” said Eric Wailes, who holds the L.C. Carter Chair for Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
Two chambers, two approaches
Early last month, the Senate passed its version of the Farm Bill – a nearly $1 trillion package that includes $89 billion for crop insurance and $41.3 billion for commodity programs, calculated over 10 years. The lion’s share, $760.5 billion is marked for food stamps and nutrition programs.
The House version, HR1947, was defeated June 20. On Tuesday, House leaders voted to separate the farm and nutrition components of the legislation according to “CQ Roll Call.”
“The primary concern with this approach is that there are not enough representatives in either the House or the Senate who come from farming districts or states to pass needed farm program legislation,” he said, which could leave “the farm sector more vulnerable to even larger budget cuts or even worse, result in the elimination of any safety net.
“A second consideration is that the Senate already has a unified bill ready for conference, and it would be unclear how the House would proceed to reconcile with the Senate if they had two separate pieces of legislation,” he said.
Both bills shift in favor of risk management and greater reliance on the market and crop insurance, he said, adding that “the price and revenue safety nets provided by either bill would provide support if prices of Arkansas crops should fall below cost of production.”