Another extension of the 2008 Farm Bill seems likely after new legislation failed to clear the House of Representatives, according to three Purdue University agricultural economists.
It is unclear whether Republican leadership in the House will bring a farm bill back for debate in the near future, say Chris Hurt, Otto Doering and Roman Keeney, who closely follow farm legislation.
The current farm bill extension, passed in late December, expires Sept. 30.
The economists believe the bill failed because of parts not directly related to agriculture, mainly how much money should go toward the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – known as the food stamp program – and commodity programs.
An amendment from Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL) that would have allowed states to require food stamp recipients to seek work while receiving assistance seems to have derailed the overall bill, the economists say. The amendment was debated late in the bill approval process and was approved on a party-line vote, bringing backlash from Democrats that helped scuttle the overall bill.
"There was just too much in the bill to dislike," Hurt says. "Too many amendments passed at the last moment that changed the bill."
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Some conservatives were also unhappy with what Doering calls a lack of real budget cuts for either food or commodity titles in both the House and Senate versions of the bill. A split in the Republican Party makes it difficult for leadership to round up the necessary votes to pass the current farm bill, he adds.
“(The Republican Party) will come together primarily on issues of shared values, and the farm bill was not such an issue,” Doering says.
If no bill, or extension, is passed by Sept. 30, the country would revert to 1949 laws that could lead to steep price increases for some items, such as milk. That is too extreme for legislators to let happen, the economists say, making it likely an extension is coming.
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