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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Expiration and Extension of the 2008 Farm Bill

Jim Monke
Specialist in Agricultural Policy

Randy Alison Aussenberg
Analyst in Nutrition Assistance Policy

Megan Stubbs
Specialist in Agricultural Conservation and Natural Resources 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 the past two farm bills to expire for short periods and to be extended. Expiration may become an issue again unless Congress passes a new farm bill by September 30, 2013.

Farm bill expiration does not affect all programs equally. For instance, appropriations action such as a continuing resolution can continue some farm bill programs, but not all of them. Discretionary programs can be continued via appropriations action, even if their authorization is expired. But programs with mandatory funding generally cease operations when they expire and are not continued in an appropriation. However, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the other programs in the SNAP account receive appropriated mandatory funding, so these mandatory programs may be continued with appropriated funds.

The most recent farm bill expiration was from October 1, 2012, to January 2, 2013, from the 2008 farm bill (the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, P.L. 110-246). During this period, mandatory-funded programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program and Market Assistance Program ceased new operations. SNAP’s authorization expired, but continued via appropriations action. An outdated and expensive “permanent law” for the farm commodity price support programs was about to be resurrected on January 1, 2013.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. For the farm commodity programs, the extension covers crops harvested in 2013 and dairy price support through December 31, 2013. Crop insurance is permanently authorized and did not expire.

The one-year extension preserves the budget baseline to write a new farm bill in 2013. Moreover, the extension incurred no net cost 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. However, the extension forestalled the projected reductions in spending estimated to come from the 2012 farm bill proposals to restructure many farm bill programs. A future extension could be budget neutral, could make some changes to achieve deficit reduction, or could continue policies that are not included in the baseline (thereby increasing estimates of spending).

Though many programs were continued, a subset of the 2008 farm bill programs expired and remained expired throughout 2013. They did not have a continuing mandatory baseline beyond 2012 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 the House and Senate considered.

In 2013, concern over proposed budgetary reductions—especially those to nutrition programs, which are too large for some and too small for others—again is complicating action on a new farm bill. The one-year extension in P.L. 112-240 sets up the possibility for similar expiration and extension issues in 2013 as were experienced in 2012.

Date of Report: September 16, 2013
Number of Pages: 28
Order Number: R42442
Price: $29.95

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