Farm Bill Update: one last action alert for this year
Prior to the Thanksgiving recess, the Farm Bill conferees of the House and Senate were busy trying to reach a framework agreement on a new farm bill. Those discussions continue as Congress returns for one last effort before the year ends.
House and Senate Agriculture leaders will confer during the first two weeks of December and try to resolve major differences, particularly on cuts to SNAP (food stamps). It appears that the de facto deadline is Dec. 13; that’s when the House recesses for the year-end holiday season.
Although we have made many calls to action this year, we now make on final call to our members and network. We’re working in tandem with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops who make this earnest plea:
Tell your Senator and Representative — especially if they are a Farm Bill conference committee member:
Support the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and oppose cuts and structural changes that harm vulnerable and hungry children, seniors, people with disabilities and unemployed and underemployed people.
Support Food for Peace by maintaining adequate funding for long-term development programs that help poor farmers grow more food.
Adopt sensible and efficient food aid reforms that reach more people with the same level of funding.
Support rural communities by authorizing grants and loans that help rural economies and communities grow and help beginning, socially disadvantaged, and small and mid-size farms and ranches be successful.
Protect conservation programs such as the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)from further cuts.
Support conservation compliance for receiving subsidies for crop insurance premiums.
Target subsidies to small and medium sized farmers and ranchers in need rather than large industrial agriculture.
End direct payments to farmers who are not farming or who have not suffered losses.
Reduce crop insurance premium subsidies for farmers who make more than $750,000 a year.
Farm Bill passage details
Farm bill passage and the larger negotiations for a federal budget deal may become intertwined. While a farm bill conference agreement could go to the House and Senate floor as a stand-alone measure, its chances for success are no doubt higher if it is attached to a bigger deal: either an actual budget deal that results in spending compromises, or even just another Continuing Resolution that prevents a second government shutdown.
That potential government shutdown will hit on Jan. 15 (or later, if House and Senate leaders reset their current deadline on an agreement). This, then, becomes the new deadline for a farm bill agreement.
The problem is that, come Jan. 1, commodity programs revert to the anachronistic 1938 and 1949 Farm Bills, starting with the dairy program. Consumers will see a spike in milk prices unless Congress acts to prevent that.
So what are the Farm Bill conferees doing?
With regard to the farm bill conference itself, it is difficult to say what is happening: all the action is behind closed doors. According to our contacts in Washington, DC, they suspect there is still no agreement on the size and scope of the SNAP (food stamp) cuts, the linchpin issue for whether or not there will be a new farm bill.
So we watch and wait. But if you have a moment to call your Representative, please do so. You can also send an electronic message by clicking here.