As we shared in the last Farm Bill update, the “Farm Bill” is a comprehensive piece of agriculture and nutrition legislation addressing commodity programs, conservation, crop insurance, food security and more. It is typically set to expire every five years so that it can be modernized as needed to meet the changing demands of food and agriculture. If the legislation is not reauthorized or extended, many programs revert to 1949 permanent law, including the farm commodity programs. Some programs, such as Crop Insurance, the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are considered part of permanent law and do not expire.
The current bill expired on September 30. However, most of the effects of the expiration will not be felt until January when current calendar and crop year programs end and the 1949 permanent law programs kick-in. Historically, Congress has never let this happen and has either passed a new farm bill or passed a short-term extension of the current bill until the new bill can be passed.
Status of AgCountry and Farm Credit Priorities
The legislative officers, directors, staff, and customers from across the Farm Credit System have been working hard to advance Farm Credit priorities in the next Farm Bill. Many of the priorities that have been discussed in previous updates have been introduced in the House and Senate as marker bills for the Farm Bill, indicating the member’s desire to have this legislation included. We’re making progress on increasing Farm Service Agency limits, clear authorization for financing community facilities, and more.
The Midwest Council on Agriculture and AgCountry’s proposal to improve crop insurance by making the higher levels of crop insurance more affordable has considerable interest in both the offices of Senator Hoeven (R-ND) and Congresswoman Fischbach (R-MN). Senator Hoeven’s office has requested a cost estimate, or scoring, from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and is working on a bill.
Commodity Group Priorities
We had the opportunity in late September to participate in a panel discussion with representatives from the National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and the Dairy Farmers of America. Some of their priorities include:
- Improving commodity programs by increasing reference prices.
- Make crop insurance more affordable.
- Update the Dairy Margin Coverage provisions to allow larger dairy herds.
- Make changes to dairy pricing.
- Improve the H2A visa program so it’s workable for dairy.
- Take steps to better prevent and be ready for foreign animal diseases like foot and mouth disease and African swine fever.
- Year-round E-15 sales
- Increasing funding for trade and research programs
Farm Bill Status
The current situation regarding the Speaker of the House in the House of Representatives has thrown a huge wrench in the Farm Bill gears and could very well be the final straw that delays passage to next year. The House cannot legally function until there is a new Speaker. They cannot introduce new legislation or even bring legislation from committee to the House floor without an elected Speaker. Representative Patrick McHenry of North Carolina has been appointed the Speaker Pro Tempore but has limited powers.
The current Continuing Resolution (CR) expires on November 17. Both the House and the Senate need to pass several appropriations bills by this time or do another CR to prevent a government shutdown. This will take considerable time and must be done before they can get to the Farm Bill.
If they can get that done and start discussion on a Farm Bill in late November or December, there’s only about 12 days that the House and Senate are in session before the end of the year. Right now, it looks like the Farm Bill will not be done by the end of the year and an extension into 2024, or perhaps to the end of 2024, will be needed.
While this all sounds negative with plenty of doom and gloom, an extension might be okay in this current political environment. The tight budget constraints or even cuts that some Republicans in the House are demanding, and the neutral baseline of the Farm Bill make it difficult to see where additional funding might come from for the improvements that many organizations and legislators would like. Senator Hoeven has said that we are not going to pass a Farm Bill that does not have significant improvements for agriculture. Perhaps waiting until next year will bring changes that will help facilitate that. In the meantime, we will continue to talk about our priorities, how they will help our farmer and rancher customers, continue to be a resource for our elected members of Congress and a positive force to the passing of a successful Farm Bill.