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December 12, 2013

No New Farm Bill Until the New Year

For more information on Newsline, contact: Kari Barbic, Media Specialist, American Farm Bureau Federation, karib@fb.org.


MillerFarmers and ranchers, you can cross a new farm bill off your Christmas list. American Farm Bureau farm policy specialist Mary Kay Thatcher says it’s not going to happen.
ThatcherUnfortunately we’re going to talk about a 2014 farm bill instead of a 2012 or 2013, but I’m still very optimistic we’ll finish this by January.
MillerThatcher says that’s because there’s just not time to get it through a conference committee before Congress goes home for the holidays. Because of that, the House has passed an extension of the current bill because it expires on December 31st. But Thatcher says the Senate is unlikely to do the same.
ThatcherI think it’s very unlikely that we could pass another extension. Indeed there would be people who really want a lot of reform in food stamps and if you don’t pass a new bill you get zero cuts. There are people who don’t want farmers to have direct payments. That won’t happen if we pass another extension. So we think an extension is a very bad idea. We’re very, very close to getting a farm bill and we just need to keep our nose to the grind and keep working on it.
MillerSo if nothing happens until January, what will that mean for milk prices? Thatcher says it won’t be as bad as some media outlets have predicted.
ThatcherThe whole milk issue and the idea of going $8 a gallon is really a myth. It really will never get that high. Maybe $5 a gallon. Obviously that’s still higher than we would like, but the press has assumed that there’s something magic about January 1st, and that the Department of Agriculture is going to implement this new policy and that the prices are going to spike immediately and that’s not true. Certainly the idea of having a provision in there that would drive up milk prices or that would drive up other commodity prices is a sledgehammer to get the Congress to act on this and we think it’s important to keep that sledgehammer in effect, but we know that those things are so hard to administer at USDA that it’s not likely to ever happen. So the good news is, hopefully it does push us along in getting the farm bill done. The bad news is, it sort of puts out some bum information.
MillerJohnna Miller, Washington.

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