What is happening with the farm bill?

With impressive displays of professional brinksmanship around the expiration of federal budget authority and the impending limit of federal debt, Congressional action and inaction dominate the headlines

The Farm Bill extension has expired, too. What is happening with that? Here is a recap in a nutshell:

*The House Rules Committee has cleared the way to join the “farm farm bill” and the “nutrition farm bill” into one bill. That opens the potential for a Conference Committee between the House and the Senate to try to merge their two farm bill versions.

*The Senate has named conferees to a potential Conference, but the House has not. There is no public commitment from the House leadership for a conference to occur.

*If a conference on the farm bill does happen, the House leadership may want to shape a bill instead of letting the House Agriculture Committee do it.

*A conference may not occur at all, and another extension may be negotiated instead.

*Congress may well not get interested in addressing the farm bill until January 1 approaches, when repercussions from operating without a modern farm bill get more intense. Without a new farm bill or an extension, the law reverts to 1938 permanent law.

*On the other hand, it is possible a farm bill extension could be wrapped into the larger debt ceiling and shutdown negotiations set to (theoretically) happen soon.

*Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack has given no indication yet that he will tell agencies to prepare to revert to permanent law.

*We really don’t know what is going to happen. And we don’t know when. It could happen any time – or not!

Stay tuned.

Jim Lukens