After legislators failed to pass the 2013 Farm Bill out of the House last week, three Purdue University economists say it’s a possibility that another extension will rule farm policy this fall.
Forecast to expire in September, the current extension of the 2008 Farm Bill – derived from the House's original failure to bring the House Ag Committee-passed bill to the floor in 2012 – does not include provisions for some specialty crops, or updates to the commodity title.
Chris Hurt, Otto Doering and Roman Keeney, Purdue economists, question whether Republican leadership in the House will allow debate on the contents of the farm bill again anytime soon.
"There was just too much in the bill to dislike," Hurt said. "Too many amendments passed at the last moment that changed the bill."
The economists pointed to an amendment that would have allowed states to drug test Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program applicants as the crux of the bill's downfall in the House.
"There was the lack of real budget cuts in either the Senate or House version for either the food or the commodity titles, which rankled those conservatives wanting to make substantive, deep budget cuts," Doering said.
"The regions, especially the South, had already gained what they wanted most out of the commodity titles, so it came down to an almost ideological battle on how much to cut food stamps and whether the bill actually met any real budget-cutting principles," he said.
The Republican majority in the House will not follow its leadership and likely will remain fractured on important issues, such as a long-term budget fix, Doering said.
"It will come together primarily on issues of shared values, and the farm bill was not such an issue," he said.
Reid pledges no more stopgap measures
On the Senate floor Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said keeping with the status quo on farm policy is "not an option."
Reid noted that the House's refusal to pass the Farm Bill was the first time since the 1930s that a Farm Bill had been defeated, and called on House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to work quickly to pass the Senate's version.
"The (House) speaker should dispense with the further delay and drama and take up the Senate Farm Bill," Reid said. "Passing the Senate Farm Bill would create jobs and reduce the deficit."
Reid noted that he spoke with USDA Secretary Vilsack over the weekend, who he said agreed that doing without a farm bill is not an option.
"I want everyone within the sound of my voice, as well as my colleagues on the other side of the Capitol, to know that the Senate will not pass another temporary farm bill," Reid announced. "The speaker should vote on the (Senate version) in the House now – today," he added.
Though Reid made it clear his priorities, Purdue's Keeney said farmers should understand that Sept. 30 isn't the end-all for all farm programs. Programs for corn and soybean crops, for example, remain intact throughout the crop season, which extends well beyond September.
"September 30 is not doomsday for farming and safety nets," he said. "Expiration of the fiscal year last year wasn't a big deal at all, and it probably wouldn't be this year, either."