Darn good question. As with most things congressional, it comes down to politics. The House GOP leadership actually did make an attempt at aone-year extension of the current farm bill just prior to their August recess. GOP leadership withdrew the bill when it was clear there were not enough votes to pass it.

NSAC opposed that measure for several reasons, including the fact it was a long-term rather than short-term extension, and also because it failed to extend current farm bill programs that would have needed a renewal of funding to continue in 2013. In other words, it was a selective extension that left out critical programs.

In September, most of the forces and policy makers who want to get a new farm bill done this year felt that any extension might quite possibly undermine the push to finish the new bill. Meanwhile, forces and members of Congress opposed to the bill did not see a tactical advantage to extending current law. Combined, that situation meant an extension would likely have been impossible to pass anyway, though some floated the idea.

Hence, starting Monday, we wind up in limbo land instead. It is not exactly the first time this has happened, but it’s close. It had never happened before 2007. In 2007, as the fiscal year came to a close, Congress extended some but not all farm bill authorities in a Continuing Resolution that otherwise dealt primarily with appropriation matters. Congress then came back and passed the first of several short-term extensions of the entire 2002 Farm Bill at the end of December, a process which continued until the new bill became law in June 2008.

This year, Congress also needed to resort to a Continuing Resolution rather than finishing normal appropriations bills. The Continuing Resolution for Fiscal Year 2013 approved last week  included an extension for food stamps and several closely related smaller nutrition programs, but nothing else, which is a perfect segue to the next question.