As of today, the chances of Congress passing a five-year farm bill have dimmed considerably but have not been extinguished entirely. While Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) continue to publicly insist that a bill could be negotiated before adjournment, there is little reason to believe that the House of Representatives, which has yet to consider and pass its version of the bill, will have time to consider the over 1000-page bill that was reported by the House Agriculture Committee this summer.
It is not at all unusual for Congress to extend farm bills, which has occurred more often than not. A short-term extension would most likely revive the Milk Income Loss Contract program, as well as the Dairy Product Price Support Program, and would prevent a possible reversion back to the underlying 1949 Act.
Underlying statutes have always been in place to pressure Congress to act, but they have never actually been implemented. In the unlikely event that the extension is not in place on January 1, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack would be placed in the unenviable position of proposing and implementing regulations to implement the 1949 Act, a process that could take months and would affect many commodities, including dairy.
Efforts to pass dairy legislation can be expected until the last minute, however, and the adjournment date for this session of Congress has not yet been set.
"The endgame depends almost entirely on the negotiations between President Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH)," said Jerry Slominski, IDFA senior vice president of legislative affairs and economic policy. "If progress is being made, expect Congress to return after Christmas. If not, the halls of the Capitol building may be quiet by the end of the week."
For more information, contact Slominski at firstname.lastname@example.org.