There are two theories about what happens next. In one, the House returns after the elections and finally brings its bill to the floor, passes the bill with amendments, the House and Senate versions then get reconciled in a farm bill “conference” committee, and a melded final bill is approved by the conference, sent back to both bodies for a final vote, and sent to the President for his signature – all within the three to five weeks of the short “lame duck” session.

In the other theory, Congress returns after the election and works out the details of a bill to extend, with some modifications, the 2008 Farm Bill until a date in the spring, summer, or fall of 2013. Under this scenario, the new session of Congress that begins in January (and lasts for the next two years) will start the five-year farm bill process all over again, with both House and Senate Agriculture Committees formulating a new bill that will then go through the entire legislative process all over again.

One of the big factors that should concern food and agricultural interests with choice number two is the fact that a new farm bill finished in 2013 will operate under a different budget baseline than if the bill is finished in the lame duck session. It is too early to say for sure what the impact of the new baseline would be, but expenditures for crop insurance subsidies will most certainly be higher, increasing the total cost of the farm bill, and projected savings from changes to commodity programs in the pending 2012 bills will almost certainly be lower. Absent a reversal of the conservation cuts in the Continuing Resolution during the lame duck session, the conservation budget baseline will be lower, making that title more difficult to put together. All things considered, there is a very strong possibility that the new baseline alone will make the task for finishing a farm bill more difficult. And that does not even include factoring in the politics around any long-term budget deal that may or may not be reached next year.

 

Get answers to more questions at the NSAC website.