To recap Congressional action so far, the Senate Agriculture Committee approved its version of an omnibus 2013 farm bill by a vote of 15-5 on May 14, 2013.

The next day, the House Agriculture Committee conducted markup of its own version of the farm bill and approved the amended bill by a vote of 36-10. Floor action on the Senate bill began during the week of May 20, and was completed on June 10, when the full Senate approved the bill by a vote of 66-27.

The full House considered it version of the farm bill during the week of June 17 and adopted numerous amendments before defeating the amended bill on June 20 by a vote of 195-234. Three weeks later, the full House debated a variation of the defeated bill that excluded a nutrition title but included all of the adopted floor amendments to all of the other titles.

This revised bill was approved by the House by a 216-208 vote.

A separate nutrition title was passed by the House in September by a vote of 217-210. It includes a $40 million cut to food stamps over the next decade. Conference on the two measures is pending.

“Technically, it wasn’t required to wait on the latest nutrition title vote to conference the two bills, but the House was sending a signal of the cuts that it’s expecting from the Senate,” says Klose.

 

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The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that if the mandatory programs of the 2008 farm bill were to continue, they would cost $973 billion over the next 10 years. If enacted, the Senate-passed farm bill would reduce this baseline by $17.9 billion (-1.8 percent) over 10 years, of which $13.9 billion is attributed to agricultural programs and $4 billion to nutrition programs.

The House-passed bill which does not have a nutrition title would reduce the agriculture portion of the baseline by $12.9 billion (-6.2 percent).

“It’s safe to assume that whatever is eventually passed, there will be less of a safety net than in the current program. Crop insurance is going to become more important, and the farm bill provisions now being debated look more and more like crop insurance.

“There’s more interaction with crop insurance, so we’re moving more in that direction. It also means that this is the only place where we’re spending money. So if we’re going to cut, there’s not much left to cut unless they start cutting crop insurance.”

Klose says he’s not optimistic that a farm bill will be finished by the end of the year. “I wouldn’t give it a 50-percent chance of being finished by the end of the year.”

Sept. 30 will mark the end of the extension to the current farm law that was passed in January, he says.

“So we’ll come to the same cliff this time, but it’ll happen on Jan. 1, and it’ll be because of dairy, and the supports that expire at the end of the year. That’ll be the next time Congress absolutely has to get something done.”

With the House sending a signal that it wants $40 billion in food stamp cuts on nutrition, a compromise with the Senate doesn’t seem possible, he says. “I can easily see us trying to decide what to do next on Dec. 31.”

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