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No Farm Bill? No Problem.

October 01, 2012 J

By Christine Harbin

The House of Representatives left for recess without bringing the 2012 Farm Bill to the floor, letting the then-current farm law to expire yesterday. Beginning today, October 1, agricultural law that dates from the 1930s and 1940s, known as “permanent law,” is in effect.

So what now? How is today different than yesterday?

The short answer is: “not much.” Programs will be little affected in the near term. Funding for most current programs, including food stamps, will continue for the time being. Commodity programs will also be unaffected for another year, since the recently-expired farm law covers the 2012 crop year until it is harvested. This will happen in 2013, not the fiscal year 2012. In addition, crop insurance, which is heavily subsidized, is still be available and it will continue to quickly compensate crop producers for their losses.

The Continuing Resolution that Congress passed earlier this month will extend federal funding for 6 months, relieving any funding problems that may arise under permanent law.

Programs that receive mandatory funding may risk losing funding. These are programs that don’t receive annual appropriations like food stamps do, and therefore aren’t covered under the CR. Mandatory programs under the farm bill include many conservation programs.

While it’s widely agreed that permanent law is not a perfect long-term solution, it’s far preferable to passing a trillion-dollar spending bill that is full of food and farm welfare.

From a fiscal perspective, we dodged a bullet. The 2012 Farm Bill is bigger and more bloated than its predecessors. No matter how its supporters try to spin it, the 2012 Farm Bill is a trillion dollar spending bill, and spends $250 billion more than current law. And 80 percent of the money doesn’t even go toward farms – it goes toward food stamp programs, which have grown out of control over time. As one of the main drivers of this spending growth, the bill would create a massive new entitlement program that would literally guarantee farmers’ revenues, something that’s unheard of in other industries.

AFP worked a lot on the Farm Bill as it moved through Congress over the summer, and we will continue to watch during the upcoming the lame duck session, once Members come back from recess in mid-November.

AFP issued two key vote alerts on the Senate version—one on important amendments, and the other on final passage. We also released a letter of opposition to the Senate bill, as well as a letter to House freshmen urging them to put their campaign promises into action by considering real cuts to the Farm Bill. We also issued a letter of opposition to the 1-year extension of current law, which was rejected in the House shortly before August recess. In addition, we released an infographic on the farm bill, and partnered on a handful of coalition letters with other organizations.

Even though the 2008 law expired, the fight over the Farm Bill is far from over. Whatever Congress decides to do, Members would be wise to take their time and consider real reforms to U.S. farm policy, instead of extending the corporate welfare policies of the past. Struggling Americans deserve a farm policy that is based on free market principles—not handouts to agribusiness.

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