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New Farm Bill Still a Difficult Task

by Mike Austin

The Hope of getting a new long term farm bill passed still has a pulse! House leadership has announced its conferees to work out the difference between the house and senate versions of the farm bill. Now while a lot of industry officials always said that they hoped the farm bill would be written by the ag committees, getting consensus this time around is no sure thing. The fact that the house passed a separate farm bill and nutrition bill is a huge obstacle in itself, and then you throw in the house eliminating the 1949 farm bill as an automatic fallback , the difference between the house and senate cuts in the nutrition and food stamp programs and the debate in dairy between a margin insurance plan that does or does not contain production controls, and you have as Jim Mulhern of National Milk says a herculean task ahead

No on knows yet when the conferees will meet but when they do, conservative members are expected to push for a stand alone farm bill and also placing some limits on crop insurance. Both the Presidents of the American Farm Bureau Federation and the Farmers Union have written the conferees explaining what they feel is necessary in providing a farm bill that is equally good  for farmers and consumers alike. And although their message will fall upon sympathetic ears among many of the conferees, all parties involved realize that with several divisive resolutions to deal with and appointees to the conference from outside the Ag committee, getting a long term farm bill done before the end of the calendar year is asking a lot. Remember  AL Michael's famous line from the 1980 Olympics - "Do You believe in Miracles". Well,  Agriculture may need at least a minor one to get what they are hoping for out of Congress.