Congress Fails to Reauthorize the Farm Bill >>

October 2nd, 2018

Congress Fails to Reauthorize the Farm Bill

On Friday, the 2014 Farm Bill (The Agricultural Act of 2014) expired without the congressional conference committee reaching an agreement on a compromise bill. While the top members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees have been in ongoing negotiations, disagreements over changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Program (SNAP) and modifications to the conservation title have created challenges in getting to a final bill.

The failure to reauthorize the Farm Bill will immediately impact 39 programs that have authorization and funding tied to the September 30th farm bill expiration date. The Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) is one of these programs. About a quarter of Native Americans receive food assistance, and in some communities, as many as 80%. FDPIR allows agencies or tribal communities to order food that USDA purchases and ships to local distribution centers. Without a reauthorization of the farm bill, USDA does not have funding to purchase food. While FDPIR users can switch to using the SNAP program, tribal communities without easy access to groceries rely on FDPIR to bring food assistance to those who need it.

Other programs immediately impacted include government-funded agriculture trade promotion, organic agriculture programs, certain bioenergy programs, beginning farmers programs, and the farmers market programs.

There are no immediate ramifications for the majority of programs authorized under the Farm Bill. The two largest programs in the bill, SNAP and crop insurance, are funded through the annual appropriations process and will operate regardless of the status of the Farm Bill. Other Farm Bill programs, including important USDA dairy programs, are set to expire on December 31.

There is a history of legislative delays during Farm Bill reauthorizations. While past bills have lapsed and led to short-term extensions, there is no talk of moving forward with an extension at this time. The Agriculture Committee Chairs are optimistic they can reach an agreement and that the bill will be taken up after the November midterm elections during the lame-duck session of Congress. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-KS, who chairs the Farm Bill conference committee, said in a statement Friday that the focus is “on getting a conference agreement on the Farm Bill as soon as possible to minimize the impact.”

Should Congress fail to pass a Farm Bill during the lame-duck session, they will have to pivot to pass a short-term extension and then re-start the legislative process in 2019.

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