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Timing; Not a question of whether U.S. is going to have a Farm Bill, but when

Timing; Not a question of whether U.S. is going to have a Farm Bill, but when

The 2008 farm bill, which provides funding for a variety of nutrition programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamps), as well as payments to farmers and agricultural programs, technically expired on Sunday (Sept. 30). And the lack of congressional action has left a certain degree of uncertainty across the South Plains farm belt, since Congress won’t meet again until after the elections.

Even so, Darren Hudson, a professor in the department of agricultural and applied economics and director of the Texas Tech Cotton Economics Research Institute, expects legislative action before the continuing resolution, which keeps the government funded at 2012 fiscal year levels, expires in March.

“The question is what is going to come next and when,” Hudson said. “It’s not a question of whether or not we are going to have a farm bill, but when. It depends on what they want to tackle during the lame duck session.”

Hudson said there are two possible options to be considered by Congress: “They’re going to have to patch some things together when they get a short term extension of the legislation. They either come backing the lame duck session and pass an extension or go into the lame duck session and say ‘we’ve already got two bills, let’s go to conference and have a new bill by the end of the year.’ ”

The five-year, $500 billion bill that supports various agriculture and nutrition programs has been stuck in the House as lawmakers debated how much to cut from food stamps, farm subsidies, and other aspects of the typically bipartisan bill.

A similar bill passed by the Democrat-led Senate would cut $4.5 billion from food stamps, trimming $23.6 billion overall over the next 10 years. Meanwhile, the House Agriculture Committee has pushed forward legislation that would cut $16.5 billion from nutrition programs. A legislative logjam kept the measure from being brought to a vote on the House floor.

The short term effects of the bill’s expiration shouldn’t concern crop producers, said Steve Verett, executive vice president of Plains Cotton Growers. “All programs, whether it’s the loan program, direct loan program, direct payment, producers will still be eligible for any and all benefits having to do with that,” he said. The bill won’t expire for crop producers until the 2012 crop season is over, but the lack of action may well affect next year’s crop.

Reporting by Ellysa Gonzalez

CONTACT: Darren Hudson, director, Cotton Economics Research Institute, Texas Tech University, (806) 742-2864 or


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