US Congress Mulls Farm Bill Extension

12 December 2013

US lawmakers are reportedly edging closer to a deal for a new Farm Bill, with some predicting that the legislation may be just a few weeks away. Many fear, however, that some parts of US farm policy - particularly dairy - will revert to Depression-era legislation if an extension or temporary legislative measure is not taken before 2013 draws to a close.

Congressional agriculture committees have been debating a Farm Bill - the omnibus legislation governing American farm policy - for over two years now. A bill was missed in 2012, and pundits predict that the same will occur this year. Cuts in food stamp expenditures and the nature of crop insurance programmes that will replace direct and other payments to farmers have held back a final deal.

Back in early January, the US Congress passed an extension to the 2008 Farm Bill in the context of a broader budget compromise, allowing continuity in farm policy. Analysts at the time had feared that if a bill was not passed, supply management policies for dairy would revert to programmes that would more than double the price of milk.

While the "dairy cliff" may have spurred action in January, Andrew Novakovic, an agricultural economics professor at Cornell University, told Bridges that there is currently a "decided lack of anxiety" about the supposed cliff since Congressional leaders are confident it can be avoided. He added that even if lawmakers somehow do not pass an extension of the expiring bill, the old programmes could be stalled through administrative measures by the US Secretary of Agriculture until Congress can pass new legislation this January.

ICTSD reporting.

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