They Said It! Expiring Farm Bill Isn’t A Crisis

Very few farmers, ranchers, orchardists and food stamp recipients will notice when the current farm and food stamp bill expires on Sunday.  Despite the outlandish claims made by some for political reasons, the law’s expiration is largely inconsequential.

“The short answer: the sky won’t fall. The longer and more nuanced answer: Heck no, the sky won’t fall. To put pressure on the House Republican leadership, some farm lobby groups are arguing that the agricultural sector will face severe problems if a new farm bill is not in place by Sept. 30, two weeks from now. The truth is that very little would happen, either in agricultural commodity markets or on the farm, at least over the next eight months.” (American Boondoggle, “Will the sky fall?  What happens if there is no new farm bill by Oct. 1, 2012,” Blog, 9/14/12)

“’The good news is, despite desperate calls from farmers and ranchers around the country, few in agriculture will immediately feel the consequences of Congress’s gridlock. They sky does not fall,’ says Mary Kate Thatcher, the director of congressional affairs for the American Farm Bureau.  ‘The food stamp program, crop insurance program, and most conservation programs are all extended. When it really starts hitting you is next spring.’” (U.S. News, “No Farm Bill? No Problem, Unless You’re a Dairy Farmer,” Editorial, 9/18/12)

Despite over-the-top rhetoric, this would not be the first time the Farm Bill has expired without a new policy in place. The previous five-year Farm Bill expired Sept. 30, 2007, was extended Dec. 26, 2007, and a new bill was signed into law after a series of short-term extensions. While not ideal, it was not disastrous. Our producers were able to rise above the politics.” (Journal Star, “Local View: Uninformed and Irresponsible Rhetoric on the Farm Bill,” Editorial, 9/20/12)

It’s not just a hypothetical, either.  This would be only the second time since 1973 the farm bill has been allowed to expire.  In 2007, when the bill expired for 67 days, the rural community did not collapse, nor were farm-state lawmakers and lobbyists particularly concerned.

“The loss probably wouldn’t be forever (sub. req’d). Eventually, a farm bill will be passed, and specialty crop producers do have Senate allies… Congress often misses deadlines, with muted real-world impact… The farm bill due in 1995, for instance, wasn’t signed into law until April 1996. The delay ‘does little harm other than leave farmers uncertain about the size of the payments they might receive,’ the Congressional Research Service noted in a new report.” (Fresno Bee, “Farm Bill Bogs Down in Senate: State Growers’ Hopes Fade as Legislation for Funding of Specialty Crops is Delayed,” 9/15/07)

“For commodity support programs, there was little reason to enact a farm bill before the end of calendar year 2007.  In fact, past farm bills generally have been enacted late in the year, after the end of the fiscal year…  What was expected to be a1995 farm bill was not enacted until April 4, 1996… Even in that case, payments were made on the 1995 crops and farmers went ahead with planting operations for their 1996 crops.

Policy officials and the agriculture community expected a 2007 farm bill to be enacted before the end of calendar year 2007.  However, lack of new commodity support legislation before harvest in 2008 did little harm other than leaving producers of “covered commodities” uncertain about the size of payments they might receive.” (CRS Report for Congress: Possible Expiration (or Extension) of the 2002 Farm Bill)

The best solution to the pending expiration of the farm bill would be to let it expire and pop champagne corks — a national version of a mortgage-burning party.” (Law Vegas Review-Journal, “Temporary Reprieve from Farm Bill,” 11/18/07)

The Washington Post editorial board put it best: No farm bill at all might be better than a bad bill.

“But for those who think, reasonably, that agriculture needs a bigger haircut than the Senate farm bill’s $23 billion in savings over 10 years, the delay is not cause for concern at all. Operation of critical programs, including food stamps, won’t be affected for the time being. Meanwhile, Congress can think some more before approving legislation whose 10-year price tag approaches $1 trillion — and whose key innovation is to replace existing crop subsidies with a costly new crop “insurance” program that creates all sorts of perverse incentives for farmers.” (Washington Post, “No farm bill at all might be better than a bad bill,” Editorial, 9/23/12)

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