At one minute after midnight on Oct. 1, not only did political frenzy among legislators in Washington, D.C., cause a partial shutdown of the federal government, failure to pass a new farm bill or an extension has left many wondering what might happen next.
Plans for a new bill had been a point of contention between the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic Senate for most of the summer.
On Tuesday morning, a spokesman with Missouri's Eighth District Congressman Jason Smith's office said the House and Senate are waiting to go to conference to work out the differences between the two versions of the bill.
Smith and many other legislators warned that if Congress failed to act on a farm bill, programs would revert back to permanent law, resulting in rates returning to those set in the 1940s, which could at least double the cost of a gallon of milk.
Congress voted in January 2013 to extend a 2008 bill, which has since expired.
According to a Sept. 30 report from The Associated Press, the House's $4 billion per year in cuts to the food stamp program ($40 billion over 10 years) is contending with the Senate's $400 million in cuts per year, which is quite a contrast.
Congress has combined the farm and food stamp programs into one piece of legislation for a number of years.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has more than doubled since 2008, with more than 47 million Americans, using the program, the report said.
According to a recent New York Times article, the House bill would also require adults between 18 and 50 without minor children to find a job or enroll in a work-training program in order to receive benefits.
As of now, there is no guarantee as to how the farm bill situation will be handled when government operations resume.
In fact, without the new bill or extension in place, permanent law will be in effect immediately unless immediate action is taken.
Information as to how this will be handled was not available as of press time.
The Senate passed a bill including both food stamps and farm programs in June. Defeating the first bill, claiming the cuts to food stamps weren't deep enough, the House passed what is referred to as the agriculture portion of the farm bill in July, but the the food stamp portion was still being considered.
Smith told The Rolla Daily News in July that the House's agriculture-only version of the farm bill had passed with a vote of 216-208.
Smith, who voted yes, said the bill would aid farmers for the next five years.
"The food stamp provisions were all taken out and only the agriculture provisions were dealt with. That is the first time that has happened in over 40 years," he said.
Page 2 of 2 - In June, the initial farm bill included $20 billion in cuts to the food stamp program. News reports stated that the $20 billion in cuts were not enough for House Republicans, while they were too steep for some Democrats.
"With the farm bill, we have to eliminate direct payments to farmers and replace it with crop insurance," Smith said. "That would provide certainty to the farmers. And we need to reform the food stamp program to where we're trying to incentivize people to get off the program instead of being reliant on it."
Both President Barack Obama and Democratic Sen. Harry Reid are opposed to the House's cuts to the food stamp program. Obama has stated openly that he would veto any such legislation.
How will citizens be negatively affected?
According to information obtained from Smith's office, the last year of support under the 2008 farm bill's commodity programs is the "2013 crop year," according to the fiscal cliff extension. "This makes the effective deadline for enacting a new farm bill the time the first commodity is harvested in 2013, not the fiscal year," the report said.
"Farm bill passage is pressured by 'permanent law' provisions which date back to the 1930s and 1940s which are largely outdated due to differences in farming practices, marketing systems and international trade agreements. Support under permanent law uses the concept of 'parity practices,' which refers to the relationship between prices farmers receive for their products and prices they pay for inputs ... Even at low support levels, the price supports would result in subsidies above current levels. Wheat, rice, cotton and milk would have higher permanent law support prices than the market prices. However, other commodities would not trigger price support."
The farm bill crisis will also affect agricultural trade and international food aid programs. Some would expire unless new farm legislation is enacted.
Trade programs with "mandatory funding" that might be affected include export credit guarantees (including those for emerging markets), facilities credit guarantees, export market promotion, dairy export subsidies and technical assistance for specialty crops.
The following programs have expired without new farm bill legislation:
- Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program.
- Funding of Pending Rural Development Loan and Grant Applications.
- Value-Added Product Development Grants Program.
- Rural Energy for America Program.