Ag News, September 3, 2013

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Farm Bill Conference Issues
By Stephen Frerichs

ASFMRA member Gary Schnitkey and Dr Karl Zulauf have published a summary of farm bill conference issues that will need to be resolved during a farm bill conference, should one occur in the near future. You can find the summary here:

Congress Set to Return Next Week
By Stephen Frerichs

Both the House and Senate will return next week from their legislative recess. There are 9 legislative days currently scheduled for the month of September. The current Federal Fiscal Year ends on September 30th and with it funding for most federal agencies.  Congress will have to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) at some point prior to September 30 to keep the government from shutting down.  Also the Federal debt limit is expected to be reached sometime in mid-October. Finally Congress is now faced with debate and a vote on Syria.

Amidst these critical big-picture issues, the bulk of the current Farm Bill also expires on September 30th. While the Senate has named conferees, the House has not. The House is expected to bring up a “nutrition bill” in September in an effort to provide reforms of its missing farm bill title.  If this nutrition only bill passes the House, presumably the House would then name conferees so that a farm bill conference could move forward.  There is some general expectation that if the nutrition only bill does not pass, the House would still name conferees but that has not been decided by House leadership.

Clearly given this turmoil, the farm bill will expire at the end of September without a replacement bill.  Recall this happened last year and there was a 3 month period when no farm bill was in place until the current law was extended in January of 2013.  The dairy support programs will expire on December 31st and similar to last year, their expiration will force some action by Congress either prior to or shortly after to avoid an increase in consumer milk prices.

House Appropriations Bill Would Gut Conservation Programs
By Bill Garber

On July 31, the House Appropriations Committee delayed until after the August recess a final vote on a bill that would slash FY 2014 funding for conservation-related programs from the U.S. Department of Interior and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Under the draft FY 2014 appropriations bill, Interior’s Land and Water Conservation Fund and Agriculture’s Forest Legacy, as well as five other conservation programs would receive zero funding. The Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Forest Legacy program are two of the largest federal conservation programs supported by real estate appraisals.

As proposed, the House bill would cut funding by $5.5 billion — or 19 percent—compared to the fiscal 2013 level enacted for all agencies under the measure. When accounting for sequestration cuts, the measure works out to be $4 billion less than current spending levels and $5.7 billion less than what was requested in the President’s budget.

Before adjourning in August, the House Appropriations Committee had worked through nearly a dozen amendments, including one that would provide $20 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund offset by funding from the Forest Service capital improvement program.

Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, chairman of the Interior and Environment Subcommittee, noted that he did not like aspects of the bill that would zero-out funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, but noted that the country’s budget deficit is an overriding concern.

The Committee is expected to resume work on the measure in September.

EPA’s SPCC Rule May Go Into Effect in October
From Northern Ag Network

The following is a news release from the NCBA:
On Sept. 23, a policy rider in the Fiscal Year 2013 appropriations legislation will expire and allow the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to pursue enforcement actions against farms they deem not in compliance with the Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule for farms. The original implementation date for the rule was May 10, but the policy rider prevented the agency from enforcing the rule against farms for 180 days. That 180 will expire next month.  Read more on the Norther Ag Network website:

Check Out another story:

Vilsack urges end to farm bill standstill – Clinton Herald, Clinton, IA from the Associated Press

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