Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Congress Fails to Address Expiring Farm Bill

Congress Fails to Address Expiring Farm Bill

Ecocentric

By Kristen Demaline

Well, it’s official. Last Thursday, Speaker of the House John Boehner confirmed that the House will not vote on the 2012 Farm Bill during this brief Congressional working session and thus we’ll zip right past that pesky Sept. 30 expiration date on the former bill. It’s possible that during Congress’ upcoming lame duck session in November, a one-year extension of the current bill will be voted on, and then we’ll get to do this all over again next year!

So what happens on Oct. 1, or the day after the deadline, you ask? Not much. According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), food stamps, crop insurance and some conservation programs will keep humming anyway. Others will not. It’s important to note that as 2012’s crops are harvested, price supports set by the 2008 bill will still hold. While the funding is allocated per fiscal year, crops’ eligibility for that funding is determined as per the calendar year. We won’t see effects on commodities until the first winter wheat is harvested in 2013; if there hasn’t been an extension by then, though, we’ll have plenty of other problems on our hands.

That said, immediate impacts could be felt by dairy farmers as (barring a new bill or an extension) the Milk Income Loss Contract dairy safety net would cease, which has been a talking point used by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and other politicians out on the stump during August. One pretty big consequence following that expiration: we’d see milk prices skyrocket at the grocery store. According to the CRS, that likely means “an increase [in prices] of three times as high as currently supported and nearly double recent market prices.” I daresay my fellow yogurt lovers and I would probably feel some pain in the checkout line, too.

There are two other matters, one general and one pragmatic, which will figure in the lame duck session. First, as we’ve discussed, given the level of Congressional gridlock and political rancor among the parties and houses of Congress, bill passage is a tricky business these days. In fact, when Boehner announced the Farm Bill’s delay, he framed the problem in terms of votes: people who believe there’s not enough reform in the Farm Bill vs. those who think there has been too much. These disagreements are unlikely to yield the 218 votes needed to pass the bill (and raise doubts as to approving an extension).

Secondly, the much ballyhooed “fiscal cliff” will take up much of Congress’ time this fall. The ‘fiscal cliff’ is the moniker given to the package of federal tax increases and spending cuts scheduled for Jan. 1. The package is contentious because it is feared that it could stifle economic growth, triggering another recession (in big-picture economic terms we haven’t been in one for a couple of years—which is not to say your checkbook and household finances may have tipped you off). Yet “doing nothing” could add to our rather large deficit. The Farm Bill will have to be resolved amidst that larger context.

While not a lot of policy has been implemented, a whole lot of politics has been going on where the bill is concerned, with the Congressional agricultural committees and other legislators representing farmers calling for a vote regardless of these circumstances.

Seasoned farm bill watchers will recall that when the bill was last up for renewal in 2007, we blew past Sept. 30 and made it all the way until Dec. 26 before an extension was passed; that effort begat the 2008 Farm Bill. So we’re not in completely unprecedented territory. Yet.

Visit EcoWatch’s FARM BILL page for more related news on this topic.

 

One of the beavers released into England's Somerset county this January, which has now helped build the area's first dam in more than 400 years. Ben Birchall / PA Images via Getty Images

England's Somerset county can now boast its first beaver dam in more than 400 years.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Australia's dingo fences, built to protect livestock from wild dogs, stretch for thousands of miles. Marian Deschain / Wikimedia

By Alex McInturff, Christine Wilkinson and Wenjing Xu

What is the most common form of human infrastructure in the world? It may well be the fence. Recent estimates suggest that the total length of all fencing around the globe is 10 times greater than the total length of roads. If our planet's fences were stretched end to end, they would likely bridge the distance from Earth to the Sun multiple times.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Hopi blue corn is being affected by climate change. Abrahami / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 3.0

Climate change is making ancient Hopi farming nearly impossible, threatening not just the Tribe's staple food source, but a pillar of its culture and religion, the Arizona Republic reports.

Read More Show Less
Pollution on the Ganges River. Kaushik Ghosh / Moment Open / Getty Images

The most polluted river in the world continues to be exploited through fishing practices that threaten endangered wildlife, new research shows.

Read More Show Less
Oil spills, such as the one in Mauritius in August 2020, could soon be among the ecological crimes considered ecocide. - / AFP / Getty Images

By Kenny Stancil

An expert panel of top international and environmental lawyers have begun working this month on a legal definition of "ecocide" with the goal of making mass ecological damage an enforceable international crime on par with war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

Read More Show Less