We reviewed Farm Bills enacted since 1938. Only five have been written when one party controlled both the legislative and executive branches of government. After last night’s historic and stunning election, Republicans will maintain control of both branches while crafting of the next (2018) Farm Bill. The last Farm Bill enacted under Republican-controlled legislative and Executive branches was in the 83rd Congress (1953-55). In 1954 President Dwight D. Eisenhower (R) signed into law the Agricultural Act of 1954 (P.L. 83-690). Eisenhower also signed the Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act of 1954 (Pub.L. 83–480).
Additional information and its relevance to our current political situation can be obtained at:
Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, November 11, 2016. Coppess, J., C. Zulauf, G. Schnitkey, and N. Paulson. “Early Thoughts: 2016 Election Results and the Next Farm Bill.” farmdoc daily(6):214, Permalink: http://farmdocdaily.illinois.edu/2016/11/early-thoughts-2016-election-results-farm-bill.html
The chart to the right shows the past 40 years, going back to the 95th Congress in 1977. During this period only the 1977 Farm Bill was adopted during a period when one party, the Democrats, held power in both the executive and legislative branches of government. Since then every Farm Bill enacted from 1981 to 2014 was negotiated and passed in a period of divided government.
Time to Go Big?
After a stunning electoral victory in the 2016 general election, Republicans will likely see this as a mandate for their legislative agenda. It is yet to be determined though if President-elect Trump will operate independently or work cooperatively with House and Senate Republicans. During his early morning appearance before supporters at his New York campaign headquarters Trump sounded a conciliatory note saying it is “time to come together as one united people. I will be president for all Americans, and this is so important to me.” If his business acumen and leadership can unite policymakers in Washington, then there will likely be ample opportunities to “Go Big” on policy initiatives including a Farm Bill.
A Farm Bill – Republican Style
The last time Republicans were in control of the House and Senate during the crafting of a Farm Bill was 1995-97 and it resulted in the “Freedom to Farm” Bill, or The Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-127). The main purpose of Freedom to Farm was to offer farmers decoupled, fixed direct payments and over time wean them away from government subsidies.
A Republican crafted Farm Bill in 2018 may be written alongside other beneficial policy initiatives such as tax reforms and reducing regulatory burdens. This may allow Republicans to again write farm policy that is more market focused and reliant on programs like crop insurance as opposed to traditional commodity supports.