Barring some unforeseen, last-minute deal, the one-year extension of the 2008 Farm Bill currently in place will be expired as of Tuesday. That extension was put into place early in 2013 after Congress failed to enact a new farm bill before the existing law expired this time last year. At that point, the nation had not been without a functional farm policy in decades, and the farm bill’s expiration was met with shock and concern. Facing yet another expiration, the farm community’s reaction will likely to be more muted as they and the rest of the country wait for political representatives in Washington to find and accept compromises on a host of measures.
While the symbolic implication of the expiration will be damning, the effects of Congress’ inaction will be mostly indirect for several months. Crop insurance and nutrition programs are effectively permanent programs and will continue without specific reauthorization. Conservation program contracts will remain in place though new enrollments will not be accepted until a new farm law is in place. Commodity-specific programs run on a crop-year basis versus a fiscal year, so they will not be impacted until winter wheat harvest next spring. Dairy prices will not be affected until Jan. 1, 2014. Programs that lost mandatory funding in the extension will continue without new funding authorizations.
Two serious exceptions to the list of programs initially unaffected are the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program, both of which provide funding for trade promotion work. U.S. Wheat Associates has been awarded both MAP and FMD funds and will face restraints on its work servicing international wheat customers in the near future.
Word late Thursday was that the House of Representatives would wait until next week to officially merge its farm-only farm bill, passed in July, and its nutrition package, passed last week. This step must be taken before the House can name conferees. The Senate passed its version of the farm bill in June and named conferees just before the August recess.