Agricultural and Food Policy Updates

March 4 -- CBO shows less money saved under last year's farm bill drafts. As expected the Congressional Budget Office (the official scorekeepers of how much bills cost or save) revised its estimates of savings from the farm bills the House and Senate drafted last year. This could place more pressure on the chambers to find additional savings especially in the House.

February 19 -- Signup for direct payments is beginning and a new opportunity to sign-up for CRP has also been announced. Meanwhile, people continue to look for signs of farm bill life. A Senate Democratic proposal that would have moved the direct payment funds to other programs was released, but few people expect that proposal to survive.

February 10 -- Question continue to stack up regarding which programs will be cut by the automatic spending reductions scheduled to occur at the end of this month, and how much those cuts will actually be. Direct payments are on the table as are most USDA programs.

January 23 -- Signup for 2013 farm programs begins. USDA announced signups for the direct and countercyclical program will begin on February 19.

January 3 -- The New Year’s Day Farm Bill Extension – Programs in the 2008 Farm Bill that were in effect on September 30, 2012, were extended for one year, with exceptions noted below.

  • Commodity programs: The direct payment program, countercyclical program, marketing loan program, and ACRE are continued for the 2013 crop year at the same payment rates and formulas as were in place for the 2012 crop year. The dairy product price support and the milk income loss support programs are extended until December 31, 2013.
  • Conservation programs: The Conservation Reserve Program keeps its existing cap of 32 million acres for 2013. The Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program is provided authorization of $10 million for 2013 (no mandatory funding).
  • The Conservation Stewardship Program, Farmland Protection Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program, and Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program were all extended through 2014 in earlier legislation so the Act does not affect those.
  • Nutrition programs: The Employment and Training program receives funding of $79 million, the same level of funding it received last year. The Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention program receives $285 million in 2013, $401 million in 2014, and $407 million in 2015.
  • Research programs: The Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative is provided authorization of $25 million for 2013 (no mandatory funding). The Specialty Crop Research Initiative is provided $100 million for 2013 (no mandatory funding). The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program is provided $30 million for 2013 (no mandatory funding).
  • Energy programs: The Biobased Markets Program, Biorefinery Assistance Program, Repowering Assistance, Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels, Biodiesel Fuel Education Program, Rural Energy for America Program, Biomass Research and Development, Rural Energy Self-Sufficiency Initiative, Biomass Crop Assistance Program, Forest Biomass for Energy, Community Wood Energy Program are all provided authorization of funding for 2013 (no mandatory funding).
  • Other Programs: The Farmers Market Promotion Program is authorized for $10 million in funding in 2013 (no mandatory funding). The National Clean Plant Network is authorized for $5 million in funding in 2013 (no mandatory funding). The Organic Cost Share Certification Program is authorized for $22 million in funding for 2013 (no mandatory funding). The Organic Production and Market Data Initiatives is authorized for $5 million (no mandatory funding). The Outreach and Technical Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers program is authorized for $20 million in 2013 (no mandatory funding). The Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program is extended but with no mandatory funding. The Value-Added Producer Grant Program is extended but with no mandatory funding. The National Sheep Industry Improvement Center is extended but with no mandatory funding.
  • Disaster Programs: The Livestock Indemnity Program is authorized for $80 million (no mandatory funding). The Livestock Forage Disaster Program is authorized for $400 million (no mandatory funding). The Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program is authorized for $50 million (no mandatory funding). The Tree Assistance Program is authorized for $20 million (no mandatory funding).
  • Programs in the 2008 Farm Bill that are discontinued: the Local and Regional Food Aid Project, the one-time funding of the backlog of rural development projects, and market loss assistance for asparagus producers. The Supplemental Agriculture Disaster Assistance Program (SURE) was ended on September 30, 2011, and this program is not continued for either 2012 or 2013.

January 1 -- Happy New Year! The farm bill extension included in the Senate-passed "fiscal cliff fix" extends most programs for one year and provides little funding for those programs who have no baseline funding from the 2008 bill. It does not include the new dairy programs and it does not generate savings from reductions to direct payments, which most people were expecting. Now we wait to see if the House decides to pass this bill as is or make changes.

December 31 -- So three farm bill extensions/fixes have been placed on the House calendar. One provides a one-year extension of farm bill programs along with a new dairy program. One provides a one-month extension of farm bill programs, presumably just to get past this pesky January 1 deadline. And one provides a one-month reprieve of the 1949 Act (the legislation with the effect of doubling milk price supports as of January 1), with no extension of farm programs. As of this morning, none have been given a bill number and added to the day's schedule.

December 13 -- The Farm Bill is linked with the fiscal cliff discussions for better or worse. While discussions on the differences in the commodity title or the nutrition title continue, it is hard to believe that negotiators would not be able to arrive at a solution if they were able to hitch their farm bill car to the fiscal cliff train.

November 30 -- Still in Farm Bill limbo. It can be hard to write something when there truly is nothing to write. The Farm Bill discussion limps along, with some connection to the discussions over the fiscal cliff. The latest change is that it appears that the House majority has resolved itself to doing an extension of a farm bill rather than a comprehensive bill. The $985 billion question is whether they have the votes for such an extension if it is just a simple extension of the current bill and as such, does not score any savings. Such a simple extension would leave in place the direct, fixed payments to producers, which have few defenders left. A "modified" extension that would change the date (extending the bill) and make a few cuts would have problems since Members of Congress would rightly ask when an "extension" becomes a "farm bill" since you are making key policy decisions. Also, a modified extension raises the question of whether you will extend the farm bill now, cut spending in it, only to have to revisit the spending again (and deliver more cuts) whenever that extension expires. Such a "double-cut" prospect leaves many legislators less than enthusiastic about supporting a modified extension. Ultimately, getting anything past the January 1 doomsday deadline may be tied up in the fiscal cliff discussions, an outcome of which no one can predict. Stay tuned.

October 5 -- Farm Bill limbo. The existing Farm Bill has expired although many programs are in place through the 2012 crop year. However, Congress will still need to do something to prevent the 1949 Agricultural Adjustment Act from being activated as of January 1, 2013. Past farm bills typically just suspend that Act, but it stays on the books. Maybe we will still see movement in the lame duck session of Congress expected to begin after the election. The July article from Politico still does probably the best job of summarizing why we are where we are and indicating some of the problems of passing a farm bill during the lame duck. My money is on a short-term extension of the bill, a short-term delay in automatic funding cuts for other programs (the sequestration scheduled to begin in January), and a short-term fix on tax cuts during the lame duck, which just kicks the can down the road into the next Congress. My hope is for a comprehensive package of legislation for all of these items that actually help fix the problems before January.

September 17 -- What do you write about a farm bill that seems to go nowhere as the clock ticks? Meanwhile, a Farm Bill Rally is held in Washington, a three-month extension of the bill has been floated, and the sequestration report outlines the consequences of automatic reduced federal spending. The House of Representatives is in session only three days this week and then is out until after the election.

August 6 -- Does time away from Washington in August increase the chances a farm bill will pass in September? Some think so:

August 2 -- Disaster Assistance bill on the House floor today -- The House of Representatives is scheduled to consider a disaster assistance package today. The legislation would provide $383 million in disaster assistance, which would be paid for by reductions in the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. The cuts to these programs in the legislation actually add up to $256 million over and above what is being provided in disaster assistance.

August 1 -- It's on! It's off! It's on/off/on/off... Welcome to the farm bill extension problem of 2012. Now, House leaders have determined that they will bring a disaster assistance bill to the floor that will NOT include a farm bill extension as they were earlier considering. That action will apparently occur on Thursday. The debate on that bill may shed some light on where Congress is headed with the next farm bill. Regardless, the back-and-forth that has brought us to this point demonstrates exactly how troubled a process a farm bill or a farm bill extension faces this year. Meanwhile, the clock keeps ticking as time runs out on the current farm bill.

July 20 -- What happens now? Leadership have different options for how they move the farm bill legislation from this point forward. It's easier to capture their options in a picture, so here they are laid out in a few slides.

Download file "Farm Bill Flow.pdf"

July 12 -- After day-long markup, House Agriculture Committee passes Farm Bill (HR 6083) by a vote of 35 in favor of the bill and 11 in opposition to the bill. The next step could be the House floor or a strategy to skip the floor and begin negotiations with the Senate.

July 5 -- House Releases Farm Bill:

July 5 -- Farm Bill -- Where do we stand? With markup in the House scheduled for less than a week from today, this Politico article sums up the situation pretty well.

June 26 -- How much does the Farm Bill cost? The Senate Farm Bill costs around $969 billion over ten years. That is $23.6 billion less than the "baseline" for the bill, the amount that would be spent if current programs were just extended. The cuts primarily come from three titles of the bill -- Commodity Programs, Conservation, and Nutrition:

  • $19.5 billion from Commodity Programs
  • $6.4 billion from Conservation Programs
  • $4.3 billion from Nutrition Programs

Find out the details at the Congressional Budget Office scoring sheet for the bill.

Farm Bill Update -- June 25: The Senate has passed its Farm Bill (See Vote Count). The House is scheduled to mark up a bill on July 11. Typically, the earliest it could be on the House floor is the week of July 16, leaving little time to conference a bill before the August recess. However, if the House is able to pass a bill by the August recess, that does give the Committees time to conference during that recess and come back in September for a final vote.

Farm Bill Update -- June 21: Final consideration of Senate amendments and Senate passage expected today. House Committee to consider its bill on July 11. House Agriculture Appropriations bill will be on floor next week. This bill funds USDA operations and many programs. Expect to see amendments offered to it that are then repeated for the Farm Bill.

Farm Bill Update -- June 18: Agreement on amendments reached in Senate, with votes expected to start tomorrow afternoon.

Farm Bill Update -- June 15: Another week, but no Farm Bill yet. Talks continue toward an agreement on amendments, with Senators Conrad and Chambliss throwing their weight into a target price proposal that may be key.

Farm Bill Update -- June 14:

  • Yesterday's amendments

Farm Bill Update -- June 13: Will the Farm Bill survive the Senate floor? It's still unclear. Over 220 amendments have been filed, so the key is getting agreement on what amendments can be considered and whether amendments that have little to do with the policies in the bill itself will be considered.

Farm Bill Update -- June 11: Farm Bill on Senate Floor, with 90 amendments filed with more coming.

  • AERIAL SURVEILLANCE: Amendment by Senator Johanns to ban EPA from using aerial surveillance
  • BEGINNING FARMERS: Amendment by Senator Harkin to increase funding for beginning farmers and ranchers development program
  • CONGRESS: Amendment by Senator Heller to prohibit Members of Congress from participating in federal farm programs
  • CROP INSURANCE/CONSERVATION: Amendment by Senator Cardin adding conservation compliance requirement to crop insurance
  • CROP INSURANCE FRAUD: Amendment by Senator Ayotte requiring report
  • CROP INSURANCE LIMITS: Amendment capping subsidy by Senators Shaheen and Toomey
  • CROP INSURANCE LIMITS: Amendment capping subsidy by Senators Coburn and Durbin
  • DAIRY: Amendment to impose tariff-rate quotas on casein and milk protein concentrates
  • EASEMENTS: Amendment by Senators Bennet and Crapo to ease enrollment in the agricultural lands easement program
  • EGG PRODUCTION STANDARDS: Amendment by Senator Feinstein
  • ETHANOL: Amendment by Senator McCain limiting funding for ethanol pumps
  • FISHING: Amendment by Senator Kerry to allow commercial fishermen to participate in noninsured crop disaster assistance program
  • FORESTRY: Amendment by Barrasso to allow Interior and USDA to enter into agreements with state foresters
  • GRAZING: Amendment by Barrasso to waive certain requirements for grazing permits
  • HEMP: Industrial hemp amendment by Senators Wyden, Paul
  • MILK PRICING: Dairy reform amendment by Senator Gillibrand
  • NUTRITION: Amendment by Paul to turn SNAP (food stamp program) into block grant program
  • NUTRITION: Amendment by Sessions to limit eligibility for SNAP (food stamp program)
  • NUTRITION: Amendment by Senator Franken allowing food purchasing and delivery services for elderly access to SNAP
  • NUTRITION: Amendment by Senator R. Johnson to include dried, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables in USDA program
  • NUTRITION/CROP INSURANCE: Amendment by Senator Gillibrand to restore cuts made to nutrition programs in the bill by cutting crop insurance payments to companies to administer the program
  • ORGANIC CROP INSURANCE: Amendment by Senator Merkley to develop organic price series for crop insurance indemnities
  • PACKER OWNERSHIP OF LIVESTOCK: Amendment by Senators Grassley and Conrad to institute ban on packer ownership
  • PAYMENT LIMITS: Amendment by Senator Grassley to limit marketing loan gains
  • PAYMENT LIMITS/PEANUTS: Amendment by Senator Grassley to strike separate payment limit for peants
  • PULSE CROPS: Amendment by Cantwell to encourage pulse crops in school lunches
  • RAW MILK: Amendment allowing sale of raw milk across state lines by Senator Paul
  • RESEARCH: Amendment by Senator Tester to expand research on public plant and animal breeding
  • RURAL DEVELOPMENT: Amendment by Senator Brown to add mandatory funding for rural development
  • SMALL GRAINS: Amendment by Senator Conrad regarding wheat and barley support
  • SPORTSMAN'S ACT: Amendment by Senators Tester and Thune
  • SUGAR: Amendment by Senator Shaheen to phase out sugar subsidies
  • SUGAR/OBESITY: Amendment by Senator Lautenberg regarding the connection between sugary drinks and obesity
  • USDA OFFICE CLOSURES: Amendment by Senator McCaskill to clarify distance between FSA offices
  • WALL STREET REFORM: Amendment by Senator DeMint to repeal Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act
  • WATER: Amendment by Senator Barrasso to limit streams covered by Clean Water Act permitting
  • WATER: Amendment by Senator Paul to limit EPA regulation under the Clean Water Act
Many others will come to light during the debate, and several others not directly related to agriculture have also been mentioned, so stay tuned.

Farm Bill Update -- June 4: Farm Bill on Senate Floor starting tomorrow, House to consider markup in two weeks

Recent analysis of Senate Farm Bill, Crop Insurance, and Other Items of Interest

Farm Bill markup in the House Agriculture Committee in mid-June. House floor action? Unclear.

Farm Bill on the Senate floor in June, markup in the House this summer: Where does it end?

Farm Bill hearings in the House -- The Senate bill is not our bill.

Senate Agriculture Committee marks up their Farm Bill, after passing a manager's amendment and adopting several other amendments. The Bill passed out of Committee on a 16-4 vote. However, several issues discussed indicate more work will be done before it comes to the Senate floor.

Markup postponed: The Senate Agriculture Committee holds off on their markup of the Farm Bill. New date and time to be announced.

Agriculture Revenue Coverage in Senate Farm Bill: How would it work? Check out this post for more information.

Senate Farm Bill Committee Draft: Check out the actual bill language here (warning: it's 900+ pages) or the summary here. More summary information to come soon.

Policy Update for the Week of April 16: Two days from now, the House Agriculture Committee will meet the requirements spelled out in the House Budget bill to find $33 billion in savings through programs under the Committee's jurisdiction. (Click here for information on the committee session.) Normally, that would mean a farm bill was in the works. However, this does not look like a farm bill.

Instead, the Committee is choosing to find most or all of the cuts through cuts to food stamp or domestic nutrition programs. Such an approach might make the bill supportable in the House, but is a non-starter for negotiations with the Senate. (Click here for a Politico article with Senate supporters and detractors mentioned.)

Meanwhile, it is expected the Committee will have additional hearings on farm bill topics, which indicates they are not done with their "information-gathering" for the rewrite of the next bill.

Ultimately, do not read too much into Wednesday's action. How that bill melds into the larger farm bill effort is still very unclear at this point.Farm Bill