What The Extension Of The 2008 Farm Bill Means
The majority of the authorities of the 2008 Farm Bill were extended through September 30, 2013 earlier this year as part of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.
Direct and Counter-cyclical payments along with ACRE will continue for the 2013 crop year.
Existing dairy support will continue as well. CRP sign-ups can once again take place.
The extension, however, did not provide new funding for 37 programs for which there was no longer funding (baseline) under the 2008 Farm Bill. This includes the SURE program.
Administratively, UDSA must make some decisions in the near future about how to implement the extension.
For example, under the 2008 Farm Bill authority farmers could make a one-time election to participate in ACRE. Will that decision cover the 2013 crop or will farmers be granted the ability to opt out of or into ACRE for the 2013 crop.
Additionally, FSA must decide when to hold sign-ups for the commodity programs and whether to hold a general sign-up for CRP this year.
All of these decisions are complicated by the fact that the general government is funded under a Continuing Resolution that expires in March 2013.
Politically, the 112th Congressional versions of the "new" Farm Bill are no longer relevant legislatively. Both the Senate and House Agriculture Committees, which now have new members, must start over in order to produce the next farm bill under regular order.
That does not mean the ideas and reforms of the 112th congressional versions are not relevant; most certainly the 113th Congress will build on those ideas.
It is not at all clear when the Agriculture Committees will start the process of crafting a new bill. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Lucas initially indicated he'd like to start in February, but Ranking Member Peterson has indicated he sees no reason to do so unless House Republican Leadership guarantees floor time.
Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Stabenow would like to start in February as well, but she has a new Ranking member (Senator Cochran) to work with who will have to hire Committee staff, which takes time.
Moreover, the entire farm bill process will be complicated by the upcoming debt ceiling debate which could include an effort to cut mandatory spending, including farm program spending.
So it is quite possible that we won't know whether a farm bill is started, let along completed in 2013 for quite some time.