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Farm Bill Update – US House moves a step toward the finish line

A quick farm bill 2013 update, for all you policy wonks out there (and busy farmers too!):

Congress SNAP press conference
Two dozen members of Congress held a press conference earlier this summer in support of the SNAP program, which was just cut nearly $40 billion in the House bill.  Photo courtesy of Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s website.

We broke the news last week that the House had passed a nutrition-title-only bill last week (here’s a good article summarizing how each representative voted), finally following up after passing an everything-but-nutrition farm bill a couple months ago.  For a quick refresher on the entire process, check out the article we posted last week.

So now does this mean that the House has at long last caught up to the Senate and is ready to start negotiating a final farm bill in conference?  

Well, almost.  Technically they can only bring one bill to conference with the Senate, and since the Senate has one omnibus farm bill and the House now has two (with nutrition being a separate bill), there is some legal maneuvering that has to happen – most likely they’ll merge the two bills together and then move forward.

The big question, though, is the time-line.  There are a lot of programs that expire next week, on October 1st (because of last Fall’s one year extension), and it seems almost inconceivable at this point that they’d get it all done before then. 

So what happens in the near term?

Many of the large farm bill programs will continue unhindered.  Things like SNAP (the food stamps program), crop insurance and subsidies have already been extended as parts of other bills.  The programs that are really at stake are what we’re calling the “stranded programs” – those that have been left out time and time again over the past 18 months.  Unfortunately, these are the programs really essential to beginning farmers.  They include programs like:

  • The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, which funds educational programs for the next generation;
  • Organic Cost-Share;
  • Value-added Producer Grants (VAPG);
  • and many conservation programs, such as the Conservation Reserve Program – Transition Incentives Program (quite a mouthful!), which incentivizes farmers whose land has been held in conservation reserve to allow beginning farmers to lease or purchase it.

What are we doing about it?

The National Young Farmers Coalition has joined with dozens of other organizations on a nation-wide sign-on letter to Congress, urging them to do the right thing and not leave beginning farmers and ranchers behind.  Despite the slowness of this farm bill process, we are confident that our elected officials will do the right thing and finally pass a real farm bill – one that ensures a positive future for American agriculture.
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