US Farm Bill

1 November 2007

When this issue of Bridges went to press, it looked unlikely that new farm support legislation would be approved by the US Congress before the end of the year.

In July, the House of Representatives endorsed legislation that largely maintained the level of government support to farmers under the current farm bill. The Senate agriculture committee followed suit on 25 October, with only minor adjustments, such as increased spending on conservation programmes and more support for fruit and vegetable growers (Bridges Year 11 No.6 page 19).

Once the legislation was submitted to the full Senate, however, endless procedural wrangling over amendments – many of which had nothing to do with the farm bill as such – stalled the process.

In addition, President Bush on 6 November announced that he would veto the legislation unless the Senate brought the spending envelope within the limits set by the administration’s January 2007 farm bill proposal (Bridges Year 11 No.1 page 3). The veto threat concerns tax increases, as well as a permanent disaster relief fund and the Senate agriculture committee’s proposal for a US$600-million annual budget line for bolstering agriculture and health in fragile countries.

The Statement of Administration Policy also said the final farm bill must “remove provisions that make it more difficult to defend farm programmes against trade challenges and distort our ability to advance the goal of free trade in international markets.”

Even if the Senate were to overcome the procedural roadblocks and adopt legislation before the end of the year, reconciliation between the Senate and House versions of the bill cannot be completed until February 2008, US sources say. Legislation to extend the 2002 farm bill by a year has already been introduced in the House of Representatives. Either way, major reductions in US farm spending do not seem imminent.

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