Friday, February 3rd, 2023
Friday, February 3rd, 2023

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Will farm bill be first item of 2014 business?

Washington — While the U.S. House recently agreed to an extension of the current farm bill, sources say it’s probable the Senate won’t follow suit, because it might be an unnecessary maneuver if a new farm bill can be passed by Congress, and approved by the president, next month.

According to the Associated Press, the House passed the extension amid fears that the expiration of dairy subsidies at the end of the year would cause milk prices to rise. U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has told Congress that would not happen before the end of January, when the House extension expires.

The AP also reported that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the Senate wouldn’t pass a similar extension because it’s not needed.

Pheasants Forever’s Dave Nomsen agrees.

“I suspect that even though the House has done an extension, the Senate may not, given they’re so close to resolution (of the farm bill),” said Nomsen, PF vice president of governmental affairs.

Nomsen said PF and other conservation groups – and farmers, for that matter, as well as food stamp recipients – believe Congress is close to wrapping up the often frustrating process of coming up with a suitable five-year farm bill, which costs about $100 billion annually and directs more than three-fourths of that amount to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps).

A Senate-House conference committee also has had to iron out changes in farm subsidy payments, likely soon to be tied to a larger degree to crop insurance, as well as the conservation programs in the bill.

A top priority for conservation groups is known as Sodsaver, and would provide protection for native grasses. They’d also like to see government farm payments tied to compliance with conservation requirements. Nomsen said he believes that at least some conservation groups’ wish list will be fulfilled.

However, he adds, programs like the Conservation Reserve Program, will continue to go in reverse. Currently at around 30 million acres nationwide, CRP likely will slip back to around 25  million acres in coming years. Other programs, too, might struggle to keep status quo as government slices program funding.

And, it’s probable some of the current programs will be combined and possibly simplified.

“Other programs are going the same way (as CRP), as well, and are being reduced in scope,” Nomsen said. “We’re trying to make the existing programs as efficient and effective as we can.”

Passage of a farm bill, he said, would at least make future enrollment in some of the conservation programs, currently on hold, a possibility.

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