Newspaper article

What Happens without a Farm Bill? Right Now, Not Much

Newspaper article

What Happens without a Farm Bill? Right Now, Not Much

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- This Sunday has been a date circled on the calendars of lawmakers writing federal farm policy all session long: it's the day the current farm bill expires.

When Congress recessed last week, it became clear the deadline for approving a new farm bill would pass without one. So what happens to farmers and consumers come Monday morning? Well, not a lot right away, actually.

Because of the way the federal government makes subsidy payments, most farmers won't be paid with or without a farm until their first harvest in 2013, by which time lawmakers, including Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, hope a new farm bill will have passed. Nearly 80 percent of the five-year farm bill's $500 billion price tag goes toward funding nutrition programs like the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (colloquially known as food stamps), but Congress passed a six-month spending resolution that funds the program -- and the rest of the government -- through March.

Kevin Paap, the president of the Minnesota Farm Bureau, said most Minnesota farmers have nothing to worry about until January at least. A delay like this is nothing new, he said; Congress didn't pass its latest farm bill until December 2008, well after its deadline.

"This is nothing new, but it's still as frustrating as it always is," he said.

Peterson said there is at least one incentive for Congress to pass a farm bill in the lame duck session: If there isn't a bill by Jan. 1, federal law requires the government to purchase surplus dairy products at rate twice as high as recent market prices.

Peterson: Boehner promised action

But Peterson said he hopes it won't get to that. He said House Speaker John Boehner told him as early as this summer that the House would take up the farm bill when members return to Washington after the Nov. …

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