Prospects for a New Farm Bill

Mark Keating's picture


Paul McCartney wasn’t thinking about renewing the Farm Bill when he penned The Long and Winding Road  yet his masterpiece aptly describes this ongoing process.  The latest hairpin turn came last Friday when the House of Representatives passed a bill for a stand-alone Nutrition Title which cuts $39 billion from domestic food assistance programs over the next decade.  Having passed the balance of the Farm Bill back in July the House now has a complete package which opens the door to a compromise with the Senate on its version.

However, don’t expect a straightaway ahead as the process moves, for lack of a better term, forward.  Not a single House Democrat voted in favor of the Nutrition Title bill, just as none did on the Farm Bill package from July.  This doesn’t bode well for the House’s package deal leading to compromise, and it could well be the sticking point that prevents any new Farm Bill from passing.  There are also looming showdown votes on the 2014 federal budget and raising the debt ceiling which divert attention from the importance of supporting all Americans – farmers and consumers alike – by updating the vital programs contained in the Farm Bill.

What to expect in the days ahead?  First, we’re waiting to see if House leadership will appoint conferees to negotiate a Farm Bill compromise with their Senate counterparts.  That’s a necessary step for reaching a deal that, should it adopt the more traditional framework reflected in the Senate version, could actually get to the President’s desk and be worthy of his signature.  Failing that, we’ll focus on the short term and fight to defend organic, sustainable, local and beginning farmer programs in next year’s budget.  OFRF is working hard to remind Congress of another Beatles tune – Don’t Let Me Down - by championing these common sense, cost effective investments in the future of American agriculture.

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