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Farm Bill Clock Ticking

The farm bill clock is ticking, with little sign yet of progress toward writing a new law by the September 30th expiration of the existing farm bill. There’s no text yet on the Senate side, and a cautionary commitment by House Ag Chair G.T. Thompson to draft a bill before the August recess.

Thompson; “We have three options for the upcoming farm bill: Let it expire, pass an extension, or craft a bill that works for farmers, ranchers, producers, and foresters nationwide. Of course, this is predicated on bipartisanship and the will of the House and Senate.”

The recent GOP-White House debt limit/budget deal left little if any room for new farm bill spending. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says the concern is mounting; “I’m increasingly concerned that we’re going to fall behind on getting a farm bill done by September 30th and have to give a one-year extension.”

Farm bills have traditionally taken months to write, sometimes more than a year to finish. That’s complicated this year by the tight budget, an ideological fight over expanding SNAP work requirements, and the usual regional fights between Midwest and Southern crops.

Senate Ag Ranking Republican John Boozman of Arkansas at this year’s Agri-Pulse Ag and Food Policy Forum said; “Southern agriculture’s different than the ‘Is’—Illinois, Iowa, Indiana…the Great Plains are different. California’s very different—they can grow anything.”

Boozman has already warned he won’t support a farm bill without increased help for his rice, cotton, and other producers struggling with steep input costs. The big question is where that money will come from, and can a consensus be reached before the 2018 farm bill runs out?

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