Anyone willing to bet on whether a new farm bill will be enacted by the end of September or the current one extended for another year “could lose money either way,” says Representative Mike Conaway, R-Texas.

Conaway, who represents the Texas 11th Congressional District and serves on the House Agriculture Committee, was the keynote speaker at the recent Plains Cotton Growers annual conference in Lubbock.

He says the farm bill includes “a lot of moving parts, policy-wise as well as political,” and represents a significant challenge to craft and pass in a legislative session shortened by a presidential election.

“We will struggle with the farm bill over the next few months,” Conaway said. “As most folks know, the current version expires at the end of September.” At that time, the options include letting the farm law expire, passing a new one or extending the current program for a year. “We won’t let it expire,” he said. “If we can’t get a full one done (for five years) we’ll extend it, probably for a year, which has been done in the past.”

He said 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.” (For more on the 2012 farm bill debate, see http://southeastfarmpress.com/government/commodity-groups-set-crop-insurance-top-farm-bill-priority).

He said House rules allow for amendments from any member. “A lot of folks don’t like the safety net,” he said, “and we don’t have time to educate them. In ag, we are way-outnumbered.”