What's Next For The Farm Bill?

Everyone's favorite hulking piece of legislature — the farm bill — is back in the news this week and likely to remain so for the next few months. On Monday, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack gave the bill's title a facelift, calling it the "Food, Farm and Jobs Bill." According to the website Obama Foodorama, Vilsack told journalists at the Annual Convention of North American Agricultural Journalists, "The Food, Farm and Jobs Bill will be about the food we eat, the food we trade, the bio-economy, research and development, and about local and regional food systems."

The farm bill's far-reaching legislation indeed covers diverse areas like SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) and conservation as well as crop subsidies and direct payments. Efforts to rewrite the farm bill approximately every five years is a teeth-pulling endeavor that is expected to be worse this year thanks to the upcoming Presidential election.

Below is the working timeline for the new farm bill:

April 20: Tentative date for Senate Ag Committee draft

April 25: Proposed deadline for Senate Ag "mark up"

  • When Stabenow's "mark" is completed, the Senate Ag Committee will convene to discuss any changes and "mark up" (Legi-speak for revise) the bill accordingly. Like the "secret farm bill," the senate draft will most likely include $23 billion in cuts, according to agriculture.com.

April 27: House Ag Committee deadline for proposed budget cuts

  • As a result of the House budget resolution, the House Agriculture committee is charged with the task of cutting $33.2 billion from the farm bill's projected baseline spending over the next 10 years. The nutrition programs are expected to get the worst of the cuts.

May 28: Suggested deadline to send Senate draft to the floor

  • Once the Senate Ag agrees on the mark-up, it will be ready to send to the Senate floor. Stabenow aims to have this happen by Memorial Day.

September 30: Current farm bill expires

  • The 2008 farm bill will expire on September 30 unless the House and Senate Ag Committees agree on a bipartisan bill. If the farm bill is not revised or extended (an unpopular option in both committees), it will automatically revert back to the 1949 version.