Farm Bill Future Less Clear

On Tuesday, the House changed direction by pulling the recently proposed one year extension of the current Farm bill in favor of returning to the more traditional five year reauthorization. The extension bill included disaster assistance for farmers and ranchers suffering significant drought losses. However, the drought relief would have come at the expense of greater cuts to various conservation programs and direct farm payments — an unpopular approach for both sides of the aisle.

The strategy now seems to be to gain passage of the original House measure (HR 6083 – Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act) and move toward conference with the Senate who passed their bill, S 3240, the Agriculture Reform Food and Jobs Act, in July. The incentive to move forward is strong since the current Farm bill expires on September 30. However, the path is not smooth for House leaders since there is a fairly vocal contingent who want to impose greater cuts on the food stamp program element of the bill.

Separately, both chambers have tentatively agreed to try to move an independent, standalone drought aid measure possibly before they adjourn on August 4th for the House and August 6th for the Senate.