Farm bill expected to expire. Now what?

If new bill doesn't pass by the end of this Congress, the process will start over. IFB national legislation expert comments on the path forward.

Senate and House Ag Committee leaders continued to negotiate a new farm bill last week, but without a replacement or extension, the 2014 bill expires today. (Photo from Canva)

By Deana Stroisch

Without an agreement on major issues, the 2014 farm bill will expire today without a replacement or an extension.

Adam Nielsen, Illinois Farm Bureau’s director of national legislation and policy development, predicted “we’ll be without a farm bill for the foreseeable future.” He encouraged Congress to pass a new farm bill “as soon as possible.”

“These are programs that we rely on,” Nielsen said. “Congress has a job to do to pass a farm bill every five years. We still have a chance to do it in a somewhat timely way by the end of the year.”

If a farm bill isn’t passed by the end of this Congress, the farm bill process – hearings and all – must start from scratch. Nielsen described that as a “nightmare scenario.”

In the meantime, crop insurance and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) payments will continue without interruption, Nielsen said. Farm program payments on the 2017 crop will also be paid.

Thirty-nine programs do not have funding as of Monday. Programs include conservation programs; most of the bioenergy, rural development and research title programs; trade promotion programs; organic agriculture and farmers’ market programs; and others.

Farmers also can’t switch between Agricultural Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage until a new farm bill has passed, Nielsen said.

Senate and House Ag Committee leaders last week continued to work out differences between the two bills. On Wednesday, they issued a joint statement on the progress of the farm bill.

“Each of us is still at the negotiating table, and we remain committed to working together on a farm bill. Our conversations are productive and progress toward an agreement is taking shape. We are going to get this right.”

Work and training requirements for SNAP recipients remain a key difference between the two bills. But Nielsen said other differences remain unsettled, including commodity and conservation programs.

Expiring farm bills aren’t a new occurrence.  Just look back to 2012 and 1993, when it took years. Nielsen said he doesn’t expect the delay to go beyond this calendar year.

“From what you hear, maybe the elections will shake things up a bit and we’ll see a renewed effort to get the farm bill passed after the midterm elections,” he said. 

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