Wildlife Management Institute

WMI Outdoor News Bulletin Congress Works on Compromises for Farm Bill, Ag Budget Before Recess
Congress Works on Compromises for Farm Bill, Ag Budget Before Recess PDF Print E-mail

image of farm in northern Michigan, Credit: smruti_damania, Flickr

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives began their holiday recess this week, but Rep. Frank Lucas, Chair of the House Agriculture Committee and Rep. Collin Peterson, ranking Democrat on the same Committee announced that they would be in Washington to negotiate the final terms of a new Farm Bill. They will be meeting with their counterparts in the Senate, which is still in session, to work on what they hope will be the final terms of a deal that could clear the way to pass a new Farm Bill early next year.

Assuming an agreement is reached, the bill will still need to be passed by both the House and Senate and signed by the President before it can take effect.  If the bill fails to pass one of these steps during the first few days of the new year, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) will be required to implement permanent laws which were passed decades ago that would have major, undesirable consequences under current conditions. It is projected, for example, that implementation of the old statutes would cause the price of milk to rise to more than seven dollars per gallon.

Some members of the House have recommended a one month extension of the current farm legislation to avoid this risk, but many in the Senate have expressed opposition to this action claiming the House is suggesting an extension to further delay implementation of new farm legislation.

Along with a new Farm Bill, Congress is considering another piece of year-end legislation that has implications for future USDA conservation programs. House and Senate Budget Committee leaders wrote a compromise budget bill after being tasked with the job as part of the agreement to reopen the government in October. The proposed budget deal cuts over $600 million from farm bill mandatory conservation programs by extending sequestration cuts to 2022 and 2023. In addition, the bill would establish new user fees for some government services, including conservation technical assistance. User fees for technical assistance will very likely serve as a disincentive to participation in USDA conservation programs. Congressional appropriators will now be tasked with taking the framework established in the budget agreement to allocate specific funding levels for programs in all federal agencies. (pmr)