Farm Bill Update
October 5, 2012

The 2008 Farm Bill has expired, and no new Farm Bill has been agreed upon to replace it. However, most commodity programs will not expire at end of the year, but rather with the harvest year. It is common for Farm Bills to be enacted after September but before December. An extension of the 2008 Farm Bill could also be made between now and December. 
 
The 2008 Farm Bill's expiration date was Sept. 30. While the Senate had passed its version of a 2012 Farm Bill, the House bill, as passed by the House Agriculture Committee, never came to the floor for a vote. It was estimated that the votes were not present to pass the House bill in its current form. (Roughly 50 representatives did sign a discharge petition to force a vote; however, a majority of House members would have had to have signed the petition, which did not materialize.) 
 
The fallout of the expired 2008 Farm Bill is less extreme for most producers than might be expected. According to this Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, the last year of support under the 2008 Farm Bill's commodity programs is the 2012 crop year--making the effective deadline for a new Farm Bill the time the first commodity is harvested in 2013, not the fiscal year. (The dairy programs are an exception, as they expire with the calendar year-Dec. 31, 2012.) 
 
As for nutrition programs, a new Farm Bill is not needed: a regular appropriation should be sufficient to continue most of the major programs' operations. 
 
While all existing conservation contracts and agreements will remain in place, there are several conservation programs that will be unable to enroll new participants-such as the Conservation Reserve Program, the Wetlands Reserve Program, the Grassland Reserve Program and the Healthy Forest Reserve Program. Because of the continuing resolution (CR) passed this month, some conservation programs will continue to have funding at 2012 levels. The CR will, however, largely prevent new enrollments under the Conservation Stewardship Program. 
 
Also, the disaster assistance provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill have expired. It is unclear if Congress will pass a disaster supplement in the lame duck session. Both the House and Senate considered versions of disaster assistance, but no agreement was met (although the House passed the Supplemental Agricultural Disaster Assistance Act, H.R.6233, the Senate did not take up a companion bill). 
 
Reprinted in part from PLC's Capital Issues