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Monday, July 15, 2013

Expiration and Extension of the 2008 Farm Bill

Jim Monke
Specialist in Agricultural Policy

Megan Stubbs
Specialist in Agricultural Conservation and Natural Resources Policy

Randy Alison Aussenberg
Analyst in Nutrition Assistance Policy

Farm bills, like many other pieces of legislation, have become more complicated and politically sensitive, and are taking longer to enact than in previous decades. Legislative delays have caused some farm bill programs to expire for short periods. The past two farm bills have needed to be extended.

Most recently, the 2008 farm bill (the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, P.L. 110-246) expired on September 30, 2012. Farm commodity supports were about to begin reverting to an outdated and expensive “permanent law” on January 1, 2013. However, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-240) extended all 2008 farm bill provisions that were in effect on September 30, 2012, for one additional year until September 30, 2013. In the case of the farm commodity programs that are on a different calendar, the extension includes the 2013 crop year, which for certain dairy programs lasts until December 31, 2013.

The one-year extension preserves the budget baseline to write a new farm bill in 2013.

There was no net cost to the extension because the mandatory funding to continue the major farm bill programs was already in the budget baseline, such as for the farm commodity, conservation, trade, and nutrition programs. Crop insurance is permanently authorized. However, the extension forestalled the budget-reducing restructuring of many farm bill programs that was envisioned in 2012 farm bill proposals.

A subset of the 2008 farm bill programs do not have a continuing mandatory baseline, and did not receive any additional mandatory funding under the extension or discretionary funding under the FY2013 appropriation. This group includes certain agricultural disaster assistance programs, conservation programs, specialty crop research, organic research and certification, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmer programs, rural development, bioenergy, and farmers market promotion programs. Many of these programs would have been funded in the five-year farm bills that were developed in 2012, and would be funded under the 2013 farm bill proposals.

Concern over budgetary reductions—especially that reductions to nutrition programs are too large for some and too small for others—along with policy differences in the commodity title are complicating efforts to advance a farm bill in 2013. The Senate passed S. 954 on June 10, 2013, but the House failed to pass H.R. 1947 on June 20, 2013, by a vote of 195-234.

Date of Report: July 1, 2013
Number of Pages: 26
Order Number: R42442
Price: $29.95

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