After talks with members of leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives, K. Michael Conaway (R-TX), Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture is signaling that congressional action on a new Farm Bill will happen in the first quarter of 2018.
It is likely the House and Senate will remain busy with tax reform through the end of the calendar year. Members of Congress must also decide on the level of Fiscal year 2018 appropriations as the deadline on the continuing resolution funding federal government programs at current year’s level ends on December 8.
Staff of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees have been busy for the past few weeks writing sections of the broad-reaching Farm Bill legislation. Some Members of the House and Senate have begun introducing legislation in both chambers that address some specific policies contained in the Farm Bill. The 2014 Farm Bill has 12 Sections: Commodities, Conservation, Trade, nutrition, Credit, Rural Development, Research, Forestry, Energy, Horticulture, Crop Insurance and Miscellaneous.
Current Legislative Timing of 2018 Farm Bill Is Good News!
The timing of action on the new Farm Bill in the U.S. House and Senate is good news for U.S. producers. As we mentioned in our blog earlier this year, 2018 Farm Bill: Preview and Analysis, for an easier transition that lessens impacts to farmers and the markets for which they produce, ideally, a new Farm Bill should be adopted before any new crop harvest. The earliest crop harvest in 2019 will occur in mid-to-late May of 2019 when wheat harvest begins in South Texas. Noteworthy, farmers in South Texas will begin planting this crop in the fall of 2018. Dependent upon the complexities of policies adopted in the new Farm Bill the U.S. Department of Agriculture would likely need anywhere from 9-months to 1 year to implement the provisions of a new Farm Bill. That means if the next Farm Bill were timely adopted, Congress should reauthorize farm bill programs by September 2018.
It is also good timing due to the fact that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) typically releases their new budget estimates for agriculture programs in January of each year. The January estimates are updated in March of each year after the President submits his budget to Congress. The March budget baseline becomes the “scoring base” for legislation introduced by congressional members for the remainder of the calendar year. Currently, the 2018 Farm Bill will be “scored” using CBO estimates generated at the end of June this year (with the new incoming administration budget estimates were delayed this year). The budget baseline for agriculture programs has been declining in recent years amidst a downturn in the agriculture economy as commodity market prices have declined.
Chairman Conaway has said that members will likely continue introducing specific, stand-alone legislation that address polices in the Farm Bill. This will continue giving Members of Congress an idea of the level of support for the policies going into the new Farm bill. As a good example, in our earlier blog, 37 Farm Bill Programs Without Budget Baseline, there have been 37 farm bill programs identified as not having a budget baseline beyond the expiration of the current Farm Bill. Without a substantive show of support from stakeholders and under significant budget constraints Members of Congress could allow such programs to expire.