Congress Returns with Work to Do on Farm Bill

first_imgMembers of the House and Senate returned to Washington this week to a full to-do list. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia announced last week that the House would take up a bill addressing the nutrition component of the farm bill next week. The core of that bill will be a Republican nutrition package that includes $40 billion in cuts-as opposed to the $4 billion in cuts contained in the Senate bill-and greater work requirements for recipients of food assistance. Upon taking action on the nutrition bill, the House is then was expected to formally appoint farm bill conferees.At this point it is likely that this timeline will hold true, or at least will not be derailed by congressional action on the escalating crisis in Syria, given the negotiations ongoing between the U.S. and Russia concerning the transfer and destruction of Syrian chemical weapons.ASA continues to engage with lawmakers and congressional aides to find common ground on the major differences between the approaches to commodity programs in Title 1 of the House and Senate bills, so that if and when conferees meet, a new farm bill can be finalized quickly. However, with Congress currently scheduled to be in session only 5 more days in September and the need to take action on a short-term Continuing Resolution to fund the government after September 30, it is unclear whether Congress will be able to enact a new farm bill before the current bill expires on September 30. While leaders still are stating that a new farm bill will be passed this fall, some are predicting another one or two year extension of the current bill when another “dairy cliff” is looming in early 2014.ASA’s preferred course of action is to see a new farm bill passed by September 30 to provide greater certainty for farmers and consumers, and to avoid disruptions in important market development and conservation efforts. It should be emphasized that while the farm bill proposes to make changes to nutrition and crop insurance, these programs have authorizations separate from the farm bill – meaning that crop insurance and nutrition programs continue whether or not Congress passes a new farm bill.ASA will keep members updated on farm bill developments as the process moves forward in the coming weeks.last_img read more