As of Sept. 30, the farm bill officially expired. Stuck in conference committee for months, the bill has been debated and delayed. With a little over a dozen days left for Congress to make any decisions, the clock is ticking. If the bill is not finalized before that, it goes back to square one. If the process has to start over, the new Democrat-controlled House could make changes, resulting in even more time before an agreement is reached. Farmers and ranchers across the country are feeling the impacts of the delay.
The National Governors Association, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, and National Conference of State Legislatures sent a letter to congressional leadership regarding the urgency of passing a new farm bill before Congress adjourns.
The letter states:
“Dear Leader McConnell, Speaker Ryan, Leader Schumer and Leader Pelosi:
“On behalf of our states’ governors, legislators and departments of agriculture, we strongly urge Congress to prioritize and pass a bipartisan Farm Bill before the end of the year.
“Across the country, agriculture and the industries it supports are vital to the health of state economies, contributing about $1 trillion to the GDP and supporting more than 21 million jobs across every state. In addition to providing certainty to America’s farmers and ranchers, the Farm Bill is integral to national security and the economic vitality of communities both large and small.
“Without congressional action, farmers and ranchers will operate in an environment of uncertainty as they make business decisions for the coming year. Failure to act would result in cascading negative impacts at a time when production costs often exceed commodity prices. For example, without action from this Congress, the price of dairy is expected to drastically raise the retail cost of milk. The Farm Bill also authorizes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides a key benefit to more than 40 million low-income individuals and families in our states. Having a stable and authorized SNAP program is important to those administering benefits across the country.
“An extension of the 2014 Farm Bill would be an imperfect solution. Thirty-nine programs are already without baseline funding as of September 30, 2018. While these programs account for only 0.6 percent of projected spending in a 2018 Farm Bill, they are vitally important to the constituencies they serve and would not be continued with an extension of the 2014 Farm Bill.
“As you well know, our agricultural economy fuels and feeds the world, while keeping us nourished and prosperous at home. As the 115th Congress finishes its work over the next month and a half, we look forward to working with you to finish this critical legislation.”
According to Politco, “The forestry title has emerged as a major obstacle to producing a conference report. Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts said Monday evening that finding agreement on that issue remains the biggest outstanding issue to striking a final deal.”
Many farmers and ranchers are hopeful that Congress is on the verge of a bipartisan agreement, but with only a few days left and small details still to hash out, only time will tell. If an agreement is made, both chambers will have to pass it and President Trump will have to sign the new bill, all before Congress adjourns for the year.