The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has been fielding lots of questions in the past few weeks following the congressional meltdown on the new farm bill. This is not surprising, given Congress’ failure to date to either pass a new farm bill or to enact a short-term extension of the existing farm bill before the farm bill expires at midnight, this Sunday, Sept. 30. From when and why the current bill expires to what happens if we revert back to the 1949 bill, NSAC has offered up answers.


When and why does the 2008 Farm Bill expire?

Congress generally reauthorizes farm bills – which help establish our food and agriculture policy as a nation – for a period of about five years, sometimes a little more or a little less. When Congress adopted the 2008 Farm Bill (officially the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008), they made the law sunset at the end of Fiscal Year 2012 – midnight on Sept. 30. When you wake up on Monday morning (Oct. 1), the current farm bill will have expired, without a new farm bill to take its place or a short-term extension to provide comprehensive ongoing legal authority.

Before the 2008 Farm Bill, Congress had never scheduled a farm bill to expire in a presidential election year. Some advocates, including NSAC, strongly advised against breaking that precedent while Congress considered the 2008 bill. But alas, the unwritten rule was violated, and the chickens have now come home to roost.