Opinion: What Happens If Congress Fails To Act On House Farm Bill?

House leaders have not scheduled the House Ag Committee farm bill for a vote.Some believe it's now or never for a renewal of the five-year farm legislationNew Congress and administration may not consider legislation a priority.

Forrest Laws

September 11, 2012

2 Min Read
Opinion: What Happens If Congress Fails To Act On House Farm Bill?

That’s a question that has a lot of the experts stumped. As you can see in another article on the Farm Press websites, feelings are far from unanimous.

What does appear to be coming through is that writing a farm bill will be much more difficult when a new Congress, and perhaps a new administration, takes office in January. That means farmers and ranchers have a decision to make in the next few days, one that could affect their future far beyond what happens in 2013 or 2014.

The decision is whether to tell their member of Congress to ask House Speaker John Boehner to bring the House Agriculture Committee-passed farm bill, the Federal Agricultural Reform and Risk Management Act, to the floor for a vote.

As Congress returned to Washington for a short pre-election business session this week, Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor have not scheduled time to take up the House Ag Committee bill. Instead, most of the time will be spent on restoring cuts to defense spending so that the Pentagon can have even more planes and ships than it says it needs and on legislation aimed at embarrassing the administration on the Solyndra fiasco.

Farm organizations led by the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union staged a Farm Bill Now rally near the Capitol yesterday. Several hundred farmers and ranchers attended the rally which was aimed at persuading the House Republican leadership to put the House Ag Committee farm bill on the calendar for a vote before Congress recesses to return to campaigning.

But there’s little indication Boehner will act because there’s no assurance that he has the votes to pass the bill without making further cuts in the food stamp program, cuts which House Democrats oppose and the Democratic majority in the Senate will reject.

So what’s the decision farmers have to make? If you want another farm bill, you need to contact your member of Congress and ask them to vote for the House Ag Committee bill. And that means every congressional district that has a farmer in it. If you don’t want another farm bill, you don’t have to do anything.

That may sound like a dire prediction because “there has always been a farm bill.” But a growing number of observers believe that as difficult as this farm bill fight has been next year will be even worse. And with a new Congress and possibly a new administration, it may be next to impossible to pass any farm legislation in 2013 or 2014, if ever. 

For more on this topic, click here.

About the Author(s)

Forrest Laws

Forrest Laws, senior director of content for Farm Press, spent 10 years with The Memphis Press-Scimitar before joining Delta Farm Press in 1980. He has written extensively on farm production practices, crop marketing, farm legislation, environmental regulations and alternative energy. He now oversees the content creation for Delta, Southeast, Southwest and Western Farm Press. He resides in Memphis, Tenn. He served as a missile launch officer in the U.S. Air Force before resuming his career in journalism with The Press-Scimitar.

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