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What Happens If The Farm Bill Expires?

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If the farm bill expires on Sept. 30, it could mean major changes for U.S. food producers

As our elected officials make their way back to their home states to campaign to their local constituents, the farm bill is put on the backburner, leaving many at home frustrated and worried about what the repercussions will be once the 2008 farm bill expires on Sept. 30. In a press conference last week, House Speaker John Boehner said that the House will not try to pass a new farm bill before the November elections and will not pass short-term extension of the current bill.

With nothing to do but wait, folks are starting to wonder what will happen when the farm bill expires. The U.S. Senate bill, which passed in July, has $24 billion in cuts. Some proposals would cut $50 billion from agricultural programs and another $139 billion from nutrition programs.

So, how will an expired farm bill impact your life? NPR sums it up: In the absence of a new bill or an extension of the 2008 version, federal price supports revert back to 1949 levels. This means wheat and dairy would be supported by subsidies, but not soybeans. However, it won’t be until Jan. 1 that there will be administrative problems with the bill reverting back to high prices because the 2008 measure covers all of this year’s crops.

Meanwhile, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, anticipating big cuts in ag spending, is asking why the Defense Department can’t take its fair share of cuts.

“Isn’t there a single cut, a single efficiency, that can be had in the defense budget?” Vilsack asked.

As reported in the Des Moines Register,
“He warned that if the Defense Department budget is taken off the table for budget cuts, a widespread supposition now in Washington, that agriculture would be more vulnerable if Congress doesn’t pass a new farm bill by the expiration of the current bill on Sept. 30.”

Agriculture has taken more than its share of budget cuts; now it’s time to lean up other areas of the nation’s budget. The House version of the farm bill has greater cuts, and the big hold-up is how to manage the food stamp portion of the bill.

Do you anticipate Congress acting by the end of the year? Are you worried about the cuts being made, or do you think it’s time to stop subsidizing agriculture?

Discuss this Blog Entry 18

Anonymous (not verified)
on Sep 24, 2012

Even my dad , many years ago ,said to stop subsidizing agriculture .

Greg (not verified)
on Sep 24, 2012

Face it ...If you are getting money from the government you are part of the problem.

Lawren ce Wansing (not verified)
on Sep 24, 2012

John Boehner and his idiot Republicans will do anything if they think they can discredit the President and blame him for this disaster.One thing I will say for them they are consistent and don't give a damn about the American Farmer and AMERICA

Don (not verified)
on Sep 24, 2012

You are kidding right?

Teddy B (not verified)
on Sep 24, 2012

Uh, agriculture is the most heavily subsidized industry in the US. These rich farmers are going to have to take cuts. They haven't "taken their fair share" and now its time to settle the score. Tens of thousands of factory jobs lost while these rich farmers work 3 months of the year and receive hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars of subsidies over the last decade - a complete joke and people are fed up.

mar farm (not verified)
on Sep 24, 2012

What farmers only work 3months out of the year. At my farm we are just getting by, I put in 15 hour days everyday. I have so much work i can hardly keep up and theres no money coming in. I figured out the amount of hours i work and the money i spend in repairs i make half of minimum wage. And you say we need to make cuts.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Sep 24, 2012

If you think the farmers are so rich, why don't you try farming for an occpation then you will find out just how we live.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Sep 24, 2012

teddy b..I'm fed up too..with you who are entitled to
cheap food, keeping the unemployed unemployed,
those of you NOT starting new business...get some
balls yourself and see what it is like to have some
financial responsibility.

Bobbi (not verified)
on Sep 24, 2012

Teddy- As a larger than average American Family Farmer we recieve less than 1.5% of our total GROSS income (before taxes, fertilizer, land payments, fuel, seed, feed for livestock,) from the government. The rest of the 98.5% of our annual income comes from working 12-20 hour days 365 days a year. It takes 5-6 months from planting to harvest just to grow our corn, and our cattle require feed and water 365 days a year. So I am not sure where you think we only work 3 months a year. During the non-growing season we work to prepare the ground for next year, fix and repair machinery for the next year, catch up on the books (let me tell you there is a heck of a lot of paper work), work on anything else that we fell behind on when we were spending 18-20 hours a day harvesting a planting the crops, and hopefully if there is a few minutes left spend a little quality time with our families. FYI- that federal crop insurance we are all suppose to be getting rich off of this year due to the drought we pay to have that insurance and it will only cover 70-80% of our "normal" crop yeilds pending on what level of coverage each farmer signed up for. It will basically IF we are lucky cover the expenses to grow the crop which only makes this year a break even at best. But unfortunately for most farmers the little crops that will get delivered to town plus the crop insurance this year will be a money loosing year.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Sep 24, 2012

I really don't know the rich farmers who only work three months of the year that you talk about. We farm and ranch and our work is never done. Most days winter and summer it is daylight till after dark. We have the weather to contend with all year long. Plus the worry of the crops either not getting enough moisture to come up and if we do have decent crops will that hail storm come along and wipe everything out including grass for the livestock. The cost of everything we have to buy to keep the equipment running has went up a lot along with gas and fuel. The cost of insurance for the crops. buildings and liability is outrageous. Our newest vehicle is 12 years old and has way over one hundred thousand miles on it. And oh yes, we do not receive hundreds of thousand of dollars in subsidies. Wake up and smell the roses. If we were paid a fair price for our products compared to what every other industry receives your grocery bills would be triple of what they are now.

John R. Dykers, Jr. (not verified)
on Sep 24, 2012

The comments illustrate the disconnect between urban folks who live in a man made world of concrete and have no concept of what real agriculture and animal husbandry is like.

K (not verified)
on Sep 24, 2012

How could you possibly measure what industry in the US is most heavily subsidized? Just because maritime, radio and television, transportation, education, energy, manufactuing or other industry does not have a separate title in the budget, does not mean there are not significantly subsidized. The (subsidy) dollar figures quoted for individuals, though ususally accurate, are not annual, but, more often, cumulative for ten or even sixteen years. The amounts would not even pay a portion of the interest owed on their operating loans. It sounds like a lot of money, if your car is your second largest investment. For many farmers, their house is not even in the top five investments, and the car is far, far, down the list. Farming is manufacturing, large amounts of cash to operate but the margin between income and expense is very close. We deal in large sums of money, but we give most of it back to the bank in principal and interest.

Finally, there is no such thing as a rich farmer, unless there is a second income from oil, patents or inheritance (from someone who did not farm).

In much of the county, farming is year round. Where it is too cold to grow a crop, time is spent repairing equipment, preparing for the next crop(s), educational events and just maybe a little time away from the job.

Really??? (not verified)
on Sep 24, 2012

Equate the USDA budget to the DoD budget? Seriously? Yeah, I know it's rare to have government officials that are ignorant of the way the government is supposed to work, but it's downright hilarious when one comes right out and shows it like Mr. Vilseck.

Look, DoD can take some cutbacks and it needs some cutbacks and that's from someone who used to within the DoD system. Mr. Vilseck though would rather see the cutbacks affect the soldiers, sailors and Marines instead of where the cutbacks are really needed.

And to add to the apple and oranges side of things, agriculture is private enterprise. My private business doesn't need the government to survive, so why should agriculture? Big whoop if agriculture feeds America. If you are running a private business and need government assistance to make the business survive, YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG!!!!!

PowerOfChoice (not verified)
on Sep 24, 2012

Maybe Mr. Vilsack wants more for his programs so some of them can violate even more Citizen Property Rights!!!

We have citizens who are suffering due to the decline in home values and those same citizens do not need to have the marketability further harmed by any government backed entity. The USDA should not be in the housing business … that is HUD area of expertise not the USDA.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Sep 24, 2012

It's amazing how ignorant some people are when it comes to agriculture subsidies. For the most part, ag subsidies originated and have been continued as part of the "cheap food policy" of our government.

They have helped maintain a more consistant supply and lower prices for the consumer, and have probably cost farmers many times more than the cost to the American people.

If you want to complain about subsidies, complain about the ethenol subsidies, which, long term could harm corn farmers more than they have benifited from them. And certainly have only hurt the rest of agriculture and the American people.

As the old saying goes " Don't complain about Agriculture with Your Mouth Full". Without subsidies, and as a farmer, I'm not sure if farmers would not have been better off if they were never started.

But I'm sure that without them consumers would be paying a much higher percentage of their income for food and there would be a lot more empty shelves in the grocery stores.

And the comment about "rich farmers working only 3 monthes a year" is so absurd it doesn't even deserve an aknowledgement.

(If someone believes that, they are pretty stupid for not being a farmer)

Anonymous (not verified)
on Sep 24, 2012

You hit it on the head. Over the years the government has sought to keep the population full and happy at the expense of the best farmers. Subsidies not only keep the price of food below a fair price that should be paid to a farmer but also keep poor farmers in business when they should fail and leave the business so new ideas and efficiencies could improve the industry. Farmers should not just get by, They should have an opportunity to excel. With subsidies we reduce farming to the lowest common denominator so the farmers just get by unless they become astute at "farming the Government".

Terry Church (not verified)
on Sep 24, 2012

Apparently Teddy doesn't know to much about farm/ranch life. I personally don't know any farmers that only work 3 months a year. As a matter of fact alot of farmers have to work another job outside the farm. He mentioned rich farmers, I wonder if he has ever had to make a payment on land, tractors, combines or other equipment. They don't give these things away. All the farmers or ranchers that I know of work very hard to have the things they have and to keep them. Farmers and Ranchers also have to deal with all types of issues, drought, goverment regulations, health, and many others. Teddy and others that think like him need to try farming or ranching for a while and see what its like.
By not passing a Farm Bill I feel Congress has let not only the Farmers and Ranchers down, but also the American People. Without a Farm Bill I'm afraid we'll all be in trouble. Maybe they(Congress) don't have anything to worry about, but being reelected!

Jason L. (not verified)
on Jan 2, 2013

Despite being someone that lives in a concrete man-made world, I don't at all disagree with Mr. Dykers. Comments like those made by Teddy B. show just how disconnected and ignorant people can be.

That being said, what really upsets me is the disconnect in understanding of what the farm bill is and what it does.

I work in a grocery store, and I get questions from nervous little old ladies about whether or not our milk prices are going to double overnight and if I think the farm bill will pass.

They seem to think that the evil muslim devil Obama is letting the farm bill expire intentionally because he hates America and wants the government to have control over everything. They actually make statements that allude to their opinion of Obama as the sole reason the farm bill hasn't passed and his hatred for the country, etc., their mistrust of government, and the like. I'm NOT making this up.

They don't realize that it is congress (both parties), not Obama, that has failed to act, and that renewing the farm bill actually gives the government more control over agriculture, not less.

They don't realize that the farm bill represents subsidization and that the reason milk prices may increase overnight as a failure of the bill's renewal would be because wealthier taxpayers would no longer be paying for as large a portion of each gallon of milk that these folks buy, and that for the first time in their adult lives, they would be having to pay their own fair share for the product they are buying.

Whether you support government subsidies or loathe them as an assault on the free market - at least drag yourself out of abject ignorance and understand what they are and what they do.

I don't understand all aspects of the farm bill, as I'm sure not a single person alive on this planet does. But at least know that subsidies in general are a trade off between paying higher taxes collectively as a society and each individual paying more at the register for actual products.

You can't blame government and complain about taxes at the same time you are the epitome benefactor of increased taxes via government subsidies!!!

People on low fixed incomes who would see maybe a $400 a year decrease in taxes but whom would be hit the hardest by the lack of subsidization should be the MOST appreciative of a more liberal government, even if their conservative political and religious leanings have them convinced of the opposite.

If you believe in less government control, and lower taxes on all including the wealthy, and a totally free market void of any government interference via regulations and subsidies that's great, that's one legitimate economic ideology out of many.

I somewhat disagree, but I understand the basis for your argument and support your right to your position, even sympathize with it somewhat - but you'd better be ready and willing to pay $6.00+ for a gallon of gas, $7.00+ for a gallon of milk, more for groceries, and more for a lot of other goods and services that are currently relatively affordable - and realize that you SHOULD forfeit your right to complain about the increase in cost to yourself even if it is outweighed tenfold by your reduction in taxes - which it will be unless you are a 1%er.

If the tax cut you desire combined with the lack of farm subsidies would still have you deciding between groceries and medication - then you are part of the 47% Mitt Romney would have wiped his bottom with. Either embrace it, or change it. But don't bite the hand that feeds.

In other words, put the blame where it belongs, if you're against bigger government, know that to be consistent you should NOT want the farm bill to pass. If affordable milk is more important to you than your own political ideology, then thank government or keep giving them the middle finger but go out and get a 2nd or 3rd job and embrace the price increase as reasonable and necessary.

But most importantly, realize that currently congress is holding this up... not Obama.

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