The current farm bill, originally passed in 2008 and renewed in 2012, expired at midnight October 1. While both the House and Senate have passed its own version of a farm bill in 2013, prospects for a new farm bill appear dim to many as dealing with the budget and the federal government shutdown seem to be the dominating topics.
Although the farm bill has expired, some components of the bill renewed in 2012 will remain in place. Most farm programs will continue until the end of 2013 because the programs extend through the crop year.
"Now that the 2008 farm bill extension has expired, farmers once again are left with uncertainty as to the safety net and risk management tools that are important in planning for next year's crop," said Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. "And come January, consumers once again face the impact of high food costs as decades-old farm policy kicks in."
The Senate on June 10 passed its version of the farm bill, which would expand government subsidies for crop insurance, rice and peanuts while making small cuts to food stamps. The legislation is estimated to save about $2.4 billion a year on farm and nutrition programs, including across-the-board cuts that took effect earlier in 2013.
The House passed a different version of the bill on July 11 that did not include food stamp provisions. The House version also included the King Amendment, which would have the potential to nullify more than 150 state laws affecting agriculture, including California's Proposition 2, which aims at ending the use of battery cages for laying hens. The House then on Sept. 19 passed its second piece of the farm bill, the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act, which specifically addresses food stamp reform and potentially saves $40 billion.
"Both the House and Senate agriculture committees have worked hard to put together bipartisan packages that would deliver solid safety net options and comprehensive risk management tools for farmers and ranchers. It is past time for Congress to let these two committees get back to what they do best - work together in a bipartisan fashion to forge the best new farm bill possible in today's tough political environment," Stallman said.