In the last installment of the 2018 Farm Bill story, the legislation was sent to legislative conference. That is, the House passed a version. The Senate passed a version. But there were some key differences between the two bills, namely work requirements for SNAP recipients. So the legislation was sent to a conference committee of Senators and Representatives to hammer out the differences and prepare a unified bill.
The deadline for passing the 2018 Farm Bill was originally September 30, 2018. Because that’s when the 2014 Farm Bill officially expired. Since the legislative conferencees were chosen, we have been repeatedly told by both sides that no extension of the 2014 legislation was necessary, because everyone wanted to focus on just getting this one done.
It probably doesn’t come as any surprise that the 2014 Farm Bill expired, and Congress never managed to pass a 2018 Farm Bill.
We now sit in a time best described as “limbo.”
Most farm bill programs run through the crop year, not the fiscal year. So that generally goes until the end of this year. Crop insurance is permanently authorized and didn’t expire. SNAP benefits are renewed through appropriations legislation, so it will remain in place.
But programs specifically authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill–about 39–will lose funding. This including the Foreign Market Development program, which is used to create, maintain, and expand export markets for U.S. products. Some of that will obviously be covered by the “trade aid” package, but not all of it. Some conservation titles will no longer be funded. And some laws will revert back to their pre-2014 framework.
It probably isn’t time to panic quite yet though. Lawmakers remain committed to reaching compromises on the remaining issues, even though the House is now gone until after the midterms. The absolutely latest deadline will be the end of the year. So there is still time left. Not a lot, but some. Given the current state of Washington, D.C., it seems like things always happen at the last possible second.
I’ll keep on it.