Remember the days when it would take the better part of two years for a new Farm Bill to become the law of the land? The Ag Committees in the House and Senate would lay out an ambitious long-range plan, involving field hearings across the country. Then, every commodity organization would submit suggestions on what needed to be included in the bill. Then, in those bipartisan days of the 70s and 80s, both parties would work together to deliver legislation that somehow satisfied most of the farmers in the land – not to mention Democrats and Republicans.
If life in Washington were only that simple today.
Welcome to the new era of deficits and smaller budgets. As the Super Committee continues its work in Washington on finding ways to cut spending, it appears that in a matter of weeks it’s possible that we’ll know how much money will be available for commodity programs. In other words, a fast-track Farm Bill could become a reality.
We know that Senate Ag Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) are trying to work together in the spirit of bipartisanship to come up with a Farm Bill recommendation that can be sent to the Super Committee. Whether they succeed remains to be seen.
One fact is quite clear. Nobody wants to debate a Farm Bill in a presidential election year. In fact, most of the major commodity organizations have quietly been working behind the scenes with both Ag Committees as they try to find a legislative package that could be attached to a deficit-cutting bill that Congress will have to vote on.
That would be more acceptable for all parties since the Farm Bill wouldn’t be dissected by amendments in a lengthy floor debate. And, given how Congress is so divided right now, a complicated piece of farm legislation would never survive in a Congressional/Presidential election year.
So, as strange as it may seem, get ready for a Farm Bill that could be ready for a vote in a matter of weeks. In the long run, this might be a good thing for all of agriculture.