Will a farm bill pass this year?

Despite a series of House Agriculture Committee hearings and an expectation that the Senate Agriculture Committee will begin writing the legislation in mid-April, lawmakers have recently been tamping down chances for passage.

“We will struggle with the farm bill over the next few months,” said Texas Rep. Mike Conaway at the recent Plains Cotton Growers annual conference in Lubbock. Congress faces “a lot of struggles with the resources we’ll have available to write the farm bill. We also have a political environment that will make it difficult to do a stand-alone bill.”

Conaway said if a new farm bill doesn’t pass then current law — set to expire in September — will be extended “probably for a year, which has been done in the past.”

For more of Ron Smith’s coverage of the conference, see http://southwestfarmpress.com/cotton/new-farm-bill-september-don-t-bet-it

Conaway’s views on a new farm bill’s chances were then echoed by New York Rep. Bill Owens (http://pressrepublican.com/0100_news/x1968910085/Farm-Bill-unlikely-this-year), who largely blamed election year politics.

Chuck Conner, president of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (http://www.ncfc.org/),is well aware of the maneuvering and elbow-swinging required to write and pass a farm bill.

Conner, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuck_Conner) who served as Deputy Secretary of Agriculture under President George W. Bush, spoke with Farm Press on Wednesday about policy positions taken by cooperatives, how MF Global has impacted co-ops, crop insurance and why Cuban markets aren’t fully open to U.S. farm commodities. Among his comments:

What about the MF Global collapse? A lot of co-ops were hit with that bankruptcy.

“There’s no question that a number of farmer-owned cooperatives that have customer funds tied up in the unraveling of all the assets of MF Global.