NSAC's Blog

New 5-Year Farm Bill and 1-Year USDA Spending Bill – End in Sight?

December 20, 2013

This week, the Senate voted 64-36 to pass the 2014 budget deal passed last week by the House and it now awaits the President’s signature.  Congressional appropriators are now in the process of dividing the total discretionary spending allowed under the new bill for Fiscal Year 2014 between all the different parts of the government and are getting busy working out the final details of all the government spending bills for the fiscal year that already started back on October 1.

Since October 1 the government has been functioning under a temporary status quo autopilot measure known as a continuing resolution.  The continuing resolution runs out on January 15.  Without a new spending bill by then, the government would be  shutdown for a second time.  Hence the rush is on to finalize as many appropriations bills as possible.

The current expectation is that all the spending bills will be combined into a single “omnibus” bill that will include some new bills for lucky government agencies and some modified continuing resolutions primarily locking in old spending decisions for the unlucky ones.   The agriculture and rural development bill is expected to be one of those that is successful as a new measure.

NSAC sent its recommendations to the agricultural appropriators earlier this week.

Farm Bill

Staff of the appropriations committees may not be the only ones working through the holidays.  Farm bill negotiations are also continuing.  With several big issues still at loggerheads, the intended meeting of the farm bill conferees, tentatively set to begin on January 8, may or may not still be in sight.   With breakthroughs on the structure and scope of the commodity subsidy and food stamp sections last week, there has been some disappointment this week that the momentum toward a final deal may have slowed a bit.

Among the issues that are rumored to remain at issue are:

  • the commodity payment limitation reforms that are included in identical fashion in both the House and Senate bills but which several lead conferees continue to rail against;
  • the sodsaver reform to crop insurance to reduce subsidies for the destruction of prime grasslands;
  • the dairy program including rumored multiple clashing proposals now on the table for debate;
  • continuation of the current organic certification cost-share assistance program which the House left out of their bill;
  • Food for Peace reforms to increase local food purchases to spur agricultural development, another provision left out of the House bill;
  • a House provision to discriminate against agricultural researchers, educators, and outreach specialists who do not work for land grant universities in the awarding of government research grants; and
  • a House provision that would effectively end USDA enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act, a near century old law that ensures a fair and competitive practices in the livestock sector.

According to multiple reports, issues that are almost certainly headed for a vote of the conferees include catfish regulation, country of origin meat labeling requirements, and the King amendment to the House bill which would curtail the rights of states to promote and regulate their food and agricultural sector.

We continue to hear pieces of good news on a wide variety of farm bill issues relating to rural development, crop insurance access, beginning farmers, and local food promotion, among others.  Committee and conferee staff continue to work through the bill issue by issue trying to come to final language on as many items as possible so that when the conferees themselves meet sometime in January, there are a relatively small number of issues still outstanding.

For additional insights into the process, see our post from last week.

We will provide readers with a status update on farm bill and appropriations ahead of Congress’ return to Washington the week of January 6.  Here’s hoping for an unusually productive January in the halls of Congress.  Happy holidays!


Categories: Budget and Appropriations, Farm Bill

2 responses to “New 5-Year Farm Bill and 1-Year USDA Spending Bill – End in Sight?”

  1. […] New 5-Year Farm Bill and 1-Year USDA Spending Bill – End in Sight? […]

  2. […] For some insight into why we are stuck here, this is a revealing piece. Also, some information on issues under discussion in the Bill is here. And no, we are not going to fall off the dairy […]