• Thirty-seven days remain until the current farm bill expires.
• While it may be a while before a farm bill is earnestly tackled by the full Congress, a new FAPRI study compares the programs already proposed by both the Senate and House.
If the House ever passes a farm bill and this actually goes to conference, what are the big sticking points between the versions?
“If they go to the table with what’s considered in our report there are some obvious issues.
“One is whether or not there should be something like the PLC coverage in the House bill. Some folks in the Senate are opposed to that notion and don’t want to see a target price-type option as an alternative.
“Some in the House feel just the opposite. They’d almost rather not have a Revenue Loss Coverage option.
“So, there’s a philosophical question about the best way to provide support. Is it to provide kind of an insurance against lower prices, as the PLC does? Or is better to provide something that will benefit producers experiencing shallow losses like the ARC package tries to do?
“Probably equally important — maybe more important — is the question of who gets what? Different people have different estimates about how these programs would pan out, how often they’d pay, etc.
“I do think that most people agree that for crops like peanuts, rice and barley, the House would pay out more and more often than would the Senate bill. If peanut and rice producers have their way, they’ll probably go with the House proposal.
“With corn and soybeans, there are questions. It depends on where the conference would set particular levels and where people think markets will go in the future. Some producers (of those crops) could come down on each side.
“The CBO didn’t score the fiscal cost of SCO as being excessively large. We’d agree that as long as participation is fairly low it may not cost taxpayers that much. But it’s a program that has both the potential to be very beneficial to producers but also very costly to taxpayers if participation levels are high.”
On the “real” problem…
“The real problem is how to get to a final piece of legislation that can be voted on by both the House and Senate…
“There can always be conversations between House and Senate staff and the like. But to have an actual formal conference, you’d have to have the House pass a farm bill.
“How the (November) elections come out will matter a lot in how a lame-duck session would play out. And there are many, many permutations on how things could happen.
“If Republicans hold the House and take the Senate and the presidency, there’s a lot of speculation that there will be pressure to put off choices about the farm bill and other major issues until after the new Congress takes power. That would mean only temporary measures to extend the existing farm bill for a few months.
“If, however, the status quo remains in place after the elections there may be an attitude of, ‘Well, this is the way it’s going to be. We might as well get things sorted now.’ And if there is other legislation to address the budget’s bigger picture – the so-called ‘fiscal cliff’ – you can imagine that some (lawmakers) might decide it’s time to figure things out and get a farm bill passed as part of a larger deal during, or shortly after, the lame duck session.”