Negotiations between the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate to craft a reauthorization of the Farm Bill remain at a standstill. The major differences between each chambers’ versions of the 2018 Farm Bill have not, and will not, be reconciled by Sunday, September 30, 2018, when the 2014 Farm Bill expires. However, Congress could agree upon a short-term extension despite comments made by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), one of the leaders of the negotiations, indicating that he hopes to avoid a temporary Farm Bill extension because it opens the door for more lobbyists and interest groups to influence the legislative process.
The Farm Bill is sometimes referred to as an “omnibus” bill because it is a large, complicated piece of legislation that funds hundreds of programs for foresters, farmers, and other rural businesses. The statutory language within the Farm Bill funds each program differently. Some elements, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and federal crop insurance programs, receive mandatory funding that will continue without a new Farm Bill. These programs have a permanent authorization from Congress, and will continue to operate. Mandatory programs equate to a substantial portion of the Farm Bill and therefore some of the most popular programs in the legislation (namely SNAP and crop insurance) will continue to function which is why Congress is seemingly willing to allow the 2014 Farm Bill to expire without an extension.
The 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills include hundreds of other important programs beyond SNAP and crop insurance. Thirty-nine of these programs do not receive mandatory funding from Congress, and will expire when the new fiscal year begins on October 1, 2018. Among these 39 are key rural development programs including:
- Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance
- Value-added Agricultural Product Market Development Grants
- Pending Water and Waste Disposal Applications
Combined, these programs contribute $228 million annually to projects that spur economic development in rural America. In addition, over $455 million in conservation funding will expire. The Conservation Reservation Program will maintain funding but it will lose its legal authority to approve new contracts or issue new block grants.
Despite the expiration of the 2014 Farm Bill, Congress is unlikely to resume negotiations until after the midterm elections on November 7, 2018. Republican negotiators will attempt to finalize the 2018 Farm Bill in the lame duck session of Congress before January 1, 2019, but House Democrats are likely hold out if they take control of the lower house on election night. Depending on how election night plays out, there is likely to be very little progress towards a new Farm Bill before 2019.