What Happens If The Farm Bill Expires?

As our elected officials make their way back to their home states to campaign to their local constituents, the farm bill is put on the backburner, leaving many at home frustrated and worried about what the repercussions will be once the 2008 farm bill expires on Sept. 30. In a press conference last week, House Speaker John Boehner said that the House will not try to pass a new farm bill before the November elections and will not pass short-term extension of the current bill.

With nothing to do but wait, folks are starting to wonder what will happen when the farm bill expires. The U.S. Senate bill, which passed in July, has $24 billion in cuts. Some proposals would cut $50 billion from agricultural programs and another $139 billion from nutrition programs.

So, how will an expired farm bill impact your life? NPR sums it up: In the absence of a new bill or an extension of the 2008 version, federal price supports revert back to 1949 levels. This means wheat and dairy would be supported by subsidies, but not soybeans. However, it won’t be until Jan. 1 that there will be administrative problems with the bill reverting back to high prices because the 2008 measure covers all of this year’s crops.

Meanwhile, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, anticipating big cuts in ag spending, is asking why the Defense Department can’t take its fair share of cuts.

“Isn’t there a single cut, a single efficiency, that can be had in the defense budget?” Vilsack asked.

As reported in the Des Moines Register,
“He warned that if the Defense Department budget is taken off the table for budget cuts, a widespread supposition now in Washington, that agriculture would be more vulnerable if Congress doesn’t pass a new farm bill by the expiration of the current bill on Sept. 30.”

Agriculture has taken more than its share of budget cuts; now it’s time to lean up other areas of the nation’s budget. The House version of the farm bill has greater cuts, and the big hold-up is how to manage the food stamp portion of the bill.

Do you anticipate Congress acting by the end of the year? Are you worried about the cuts being made, or do you think it’s time to stop subsidizing agriculture?

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