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Agriculture Today

Farm Bill advances but outcome far from certain

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July 24, 2013 | 4,415 views | Post a comment

With the passage of a “Farm-only-Farm bill” July 11 in the House of Representatives, House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas outlined possible next steps on completing the 2013 omnibus legislation.

According to a July 18 U.S. Grain Council press release, the House has formally sent the legislation HR 2642, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013, to the Senate. Procedurally, the Senate can take up the House bill, approve or amend it, and then send it back to the House requesting a conference.

“With the exclusion of the food nutrition title and differences in several agriculture-related titles, however, it is all but certain that the Senate will not accept the House bill in its current form,” said Floyd Gaibler, U.S. Grains Council director of trade policy and biotechnology.

From the Council’s perspective, it is important to note that full funding and authorization for the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program, are in both bills. The differences between the House and Senate are primarily in the nutrition programs. The House Bill, however, also includes language amending permanent law pertaining which would only apply to the pending commodity title, while leaving other titles subject to periodic reauthorization. This would compromise the “package deal” that has been essential in providing political leverage to reauthorize farm bills on schedule.

In addition to resolving differences in the two farm bills and reconciling whether the changes made to permanent law remain in place, Congress will have very little time to complete the process and have legislation in place by Sept. 30, when the current farm bill expires.

“If that occurs, Congress will have to enact yet another short-term extension, which will, in and of itself, would be controversial and add uncertainty to finalizing a new five-year farm bill,” said Gaibler.

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