WASHINGTON – Senate and House farm bill conferees failed to resolve differences in their respective farm bills drafted to replace the Agricultural Act of 2014 before it expired Sept. 30. The House of Representatives is in recess and will not reconvene until after the Nov. 6 mid-term elections. The lame-duck Congress will have to find enough common ground to pass a new farm law or it will have to extend the 2014 law. If the 2014 farm law is extended, Congress will have to determine the length of the extension.  

Major programs under the purview of the farm bill, such as crop insurance and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), will continue because they are permanently authorized and funded.

Unless a new farm bill is passed, or the current farm bill is extended shortly after the elections, the dairy program will expire at the end of December. The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) will continue and current contracts with producers honored, but the US Dept. of Agriculture will not be able to enter into new CRP contracts.

With the expiration of the 2014 farm bill, 39 “orphan” programs lost both authorization and funding on Oct. 1. These programs include certain conservation programs and most bioenergy, rural development and agricultural research programs.

Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, said work was underway to enable the USDA to extend funding for the “orphan” programs while Congress tries to pass a new farm bill.

“We’re making arrangements so that they don’t close in this interim period,” Roberts said. “The same thing happened in 2012. That’s not the way that we would have liked to have seen it, but I think that they (USDA) know they (the affected programs) will be fully funded. It’s just right now, there’s a hiccup.”

The Senate-House farm bill conference committee will have its hands full during the lame-duck session. Rep. K. Michael Conaway, chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, asserted in a video posted on Sept. 30 that there remained differences among conferees on several farm bill titles, including the new work requirements contained for SNAP eligibility contained in the House bill.

“Right now, I don’t get the sense that getting something done has quite the sense of urgency with my Senate colleagues as it does with me.” Conaway said. “It’s just a matter of having the political will to make those hard choices.”