Has farm bill reporting has been stirring up a sense of déjà vu?
The bill was set to expire last year, the Senate passes a version but the House fails to do the same. A lot of accusations from both sides drag on until an extension is needed. Then we saw the same exact thing happen this Spring. And now we’re stuck once more, waiting to see what comes next.
Well here’s something new: certain Congressional leaders have been calling for an end to the Farm Bill as we know it.
We don’t know for sure what will happen, but there’s been a lot more talk about a truly radical change – the separation of the bill into its distinct components – than we’ve ever heard before.
What’s that mean?
“I’m willing to do what it takes to get a farm bill done. If that means doing it unconventionally, maybe we got to give it a try.”
House Ag Committee chair Frank Lucas, as quoted in www.rollcall.com
One of the things that made the Farm Bill work is that it has always had a little of something for everyone. It includes the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (formerly known as Food Stamps), it includes crop insurance and subsidies and it covers conservation and other specialty programs (like those that support beginning farmers and local food!).
However, earlier this month, certain House leaders, including House Agriculture Committee chair Frank Lucas and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, have now publicly floated the idea of separating the bill into separate pieces to help improve their chance of passage.
It is still unclear what a separated bill would look like, and how it would relate to the already-passed Farm Bill version from the Senate (all bills have to meet “in conference” after being passed by the House and Senate, so this radically-different structure would not easily sync up with work already done by the Senate). It is also unclear whether programs like the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program and others cherished by beginning farmers and advocated for by NYFC would still be attached to larger pieces of the original bill, or if this change would be used as an excuse to erase other programs as well.
What comes next?
There is still a lot unknown. As we edge closer to the September 30th deadline of the existing bill, we know that Congress will get more and more desperate to act. We are going to be paying close attention and give you up-to-date information and analysis, so stay tuned! We’ll do our best to decipher the political jargon and figure out how any changes will actually impact you and your farm.
Meanwhile, we stand by the statement from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) after the Farm Bill’s failure last month that:
“The only workable path forward is to expand and unite the constituencies served by the bill. Key ingredients of such an approach would include increasing the degree of crop subsidy reform in the bill, removing radical changes to SNAP, and further enhancing polices and investments in the bill that advance the broad public and bipartisan interest in local food systems, organic farming, rural development, conservation, renewable energy, and beginning, veteran, and minority farmers.”
Need a quick refresher? Check out our post from last month after the House’s Farm Bill flop here. For more insight on the different paths that the Farm Bill might take over the next few months in this enlightening article from NSAC.