The 2012 Farm Bill: Three reasons It's More Complicated This Time Around

Faith Grant's picture

1. It's an election year.  Yes, 2008 was an election year, too, but both the House and Senate had already passed their versions of the bill by the end of 2007, giving Congress a great deal more time to reconcile their differences before the election.  Even with a presidential veto, there was still time to get it passed.  This time around, the election is less than seven months away, and neither the House nor the Senate have even drafted their own versions of a bill.  There may still be time to wrap things up, but only if Congress can move at warp speed between now and Election Day. 

2. A House divided:  Unlike 2008 when both chambers of Congress were controlled by the same party (the Democrats), the 112th Congress is a truly divided house.  In the Senate, the Democrats control a razor-thin majority of just one vote. In the House, Republicans are in charge, but freshman Tea Party members are making it difficult for House majority leaders to come to a consensus on the 2012 Farm Bill.  House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan's proposal to cut the deficit by $33 billion dollars over the next ten years has basically thrown a giant monkey wrench into the process.

3. The Budget Control Act:  The bill's title belies the complexity of the rules it puts in place.  Basically, if Congress doesn't come to an agreement on how to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion dollars over the next ten years, across-the-board cuts will kick in automatically starting in 2013 for nearly all federal programs, including agriculture.  Sequestration, as this rule is called, would be devastating to agriculture programs and America's farmers and farmland.  It would also be very, very tricky to write a Farm Bill in the middle of this political minefield.  This is another reason the pressure is on to get a Farm Bill written and passed now.

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