Posts: 1,082
Registered: ‎05-11-2010

Nuts and bolts of the Farm Bill extension

[ Edited ]


Here's the nuts and bolts of the extension package passed by both Houses.  My understanding is that President Obama signed the bill before flying back to Hawaii today.  (Correction: He signed it today, Jan. 3)


In summary;

The bill extends current commodity support programs, including the MILC program that will prevent an increase in dairy prices.  Maximum enrollment in CRP would be maintained at 32 million acres.  There were also no changes to the crop insurance title in this extension. 


The bill did include some disaster assistance:


  • $80 million for livestock indemnity payments.
  • $400 million for the livestock forage disaster program.
  • $50 million for emergency assistance for livestock, honey bees, and farm-raised fish.
  • $20 million for tree assistance.

My understanding is that MAP and FMD programs are funded as well.


Several programs would not be extended under the bill, including:


  • Local and regional procurement for foreign food aid.
  • The McGovern-Dole International Food Program.
  • Pending rural development loan and grant applications, value-added agricultural market development program grants,  and rural microentrepreneur assistance program.
  • Supplemental agriculture disaster assistance.
  • Evaluation of Pigford claims, the USDA settlement of discrimination lawsuits by black farmers.


Other Cuts:

  • Cuts the McGovern-Dole school feeding program
  • Didn't provide funding for some conservation measures. A short term extension, even to Sept. 30 will likely prevent FSA and NRCS from sign-ups for new CRP or CSP contracts.
  • Requires an additional 6 billion cut in non-defense discretionary spending and no one knows where those will fall.

The measure would provide only discretionary funding authority - no mandatory spending - for a number of programs, including the organic agriculture research and extension initiative, specialty crop research initiative, the beginning farmer and rancher development program, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program's employment and training programs and nutrition education and obesity prevention grant program.


Also, the fiscal deal also would increase the estate tax from 35 percent to 40 percent but preserve the $5 million exemption for individuals and $10 million for married couples.


There you have it.  As a flawed bill, it's the best the lawmakers could do, given the dysfunctional state of the political situation.  For the record, Boehner was forced to go the bi-partisan route to get the votes needed for passage. 


My opinion on this is, Boehner could have saved us all the trouble and passed a completely new farm bill four months ago with bipartisan support.  He had the votes to do it, but chose the partisan route, and he could not get the votes from the Tea Party folks.  The pain we have gone through could have been minimal, but we are reaping the results of the bad decision.