In Congress needs to get to work, the editorial board states:
In July, a new five-year Farm Bill passed out of the House Agriculture Committee on a bipartisan vote of 35-11. Yet, despite that support, the bill sits idling away in a House that is shirking its responsibility to move legislation forward. . . .The new Farm Bill is not on this week’s agenda, which seems remarkable considering the current legislation expires at the end of this month — and the fact that farm policies would revert back to those of decades ago should nothing be done.
Rep. Tim Walz issued a statement Monday morning decrying the inaction, and it’s right on target.
“The American people go about their business every day and expect Congress to do the same. I am absolutely appalled that House leadership would send us home without getting our chores done and voting on a five-year Farm Bill.
“In small towns across this country, local businesses depend on the farm economy to survive,” he continued. “When farmers do well, local businesses do well. Farmers spend their money on Main Street. ... Without a five-year Farm Bill, these businesses will also suffer.”
The editorial mentions old farm policies that will kick into place if nothing is done. But for dairy farmers, there's a more immediate problem with the expiration of MILC months before the old parity pricing kicks in if no bill is passed.
Yesterday, Politico reported in Farm bill finale: Milk, mayhem:
Dairy interests are most in a pickle because their Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) expires with the current law at the end of this month. But producers are still reluctant to sign onto any extension if it jeopardizes the chances for the greater security promised in the five-year bill.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is spearheading an effort to extend MILC and enrich the payments in light of the drought impacting farmers and feed prices. And the draft House bill backfills recent program cuts and extends MILC to Dec. 1.
The added cost would be about $50 million according to preliminary estimates—a clear bid to get dairy votes. But one industry lobbyist remained skeptical: “The risk is far is greater than the reward right now,” she told POLITICO.
Indeed, there has been remarkable unity thus far among commodity groups and sometimes rival farm organizations like the American Farm Bureau and National Farmers Union. The crop insurance industry –typically cautious about any political stand—most recently added its name to the same Farm Bill Now coalition. And this support has emboldened Democrats to stand firm.
What's even more outrageous is the potential cost of either doing nothing or passing a cosmetic short extension. The West Central Tribune reports in Peterson: Farm bill unlikely soon:
But long term, taxpayers could end up paying more, Peterson said.
Without a new farm bill, planned food stamp cuts won’t take effect. Plus, absent a new farm bill, federal law requires crop price supports to default to those in the 1949 farm bill — much higher than today for commodities such as milk and wheat, he said.
Peterson said Republicans are rolling the dice, gambling the November election delivers them the Senate and the presidency. Then they can write a farm bill to their liking – perhaps gutting the sugar and dairy programs, or slashing aid such as food stamps, he said.
In the meantime, Peterson said Republicans are seeking a 90-day extension of the 2008 farm bill.
“That is complete nonsense because there is no problem for 90 days. There’s a problem the 91st day,” Peterson said. “This is another disingenuous gesture to try to get their members off the hook.
“This is all cover so they can vote for this and tell people at home they did something,” Peterson said. “They’re just playing all kinds of games.
And what happens on the 91st day? Peterson explains:
Peterson said the first big effect of no farm bill would come on Jan. 1. That’s when the USDA would be required to support a price of a minimum of $38.48 per hundredweight for milk. In contrast, milk prices averaged about $16.60 per hundredweight in July, USDA reports.
Next comes winter wheat in May, when the harvest begins in Texas.
The 1949 parity price for wheat is 16.50 per bushel, and the government would have to support a price that’s 90 percent of that, Peterson said.
Wheat on Friday was selling for $9.05 to $10.66 per bushel, depending on the variety, quality and when it’s delivered, according to the Portland (Ore.) Daily Grain Report. . . .
These potentially costly games must stop--and they underscore the inherent nincompoopery of Republican campaign strategy that allows Allen Quist to blither on about Rolls Royce owners on food stamps while farm groups ask for passage of a five-year farm bill.Get 'er done, Congress.
Photo: Combining corn.