The Agricultural Act of 2014 formally expired on October 1, with no replacement or extension in effect. This blog explains some of the consequences of that lapse in farm bill coverage for a variety of key programs.

On Monday, October 1, the Agriculture Act of 2014 expired, with no new farm bill yet completed to replace it.   The staffs of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees and the conference committee members from both bodies have been working diligently since late July to reconcile the many differences between the House and Senate farm bill versions passed during the summer, but they have not yet been able to complete that work and present a single conference version to the House and Senate for final consideration.

Agricultural extension has been an essential component in helping farmers acquire knowledge of new technology and practices.  While governments have been providing information for farmers for several millennia, the U.S. combined system of land grant universities, agricultural experiment stations, and cooperative extension systems, federally- and state-funded but state-based, was a uniquely American development.

This blog describes the portions of the House farm bill not included in last week’s blog–titles covering trade, rural development, credit, agricultural research, forestry, horticulture, and miscellaneous issues

This week, I will describe the key provisions in the other seven titles of the version of the farm bill marked up in the House Agriculture Committee on April 18th.  While provisions in these titles (trade, credit, rural development, agricultural research, forestry, horticulture, and miscellaneous), only command a small share of the mandatory resources at the disposal of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, they are nonetheless important in shaping how farmers, rural communities, land grant universities, and foresters will interact with the federal government over the next five years.

The House Agriculture Committee marked up a farm bill on April 18, reported out of Committee on a party line vote.  This blog describes key changes to the four largest titles:  nutrition, commodities, crop insurance, and conservation.  

Rep. Mike Conaway (R, TX), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, held a mark up of his draft farm bill on Wednesday, April 18th.  During his press conference to launch the bill on April 12, he described the bill as ‘bipartisan except for one title,’ but the changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that he is proposing have generated strong opposition from the Democratic members of the House of Representatives as well as nutrition advocates from outside of Congress.  That attitude was reflected in the motion to report the bill out of Committee yesterday, which passed on a party-line vote of 26-20.  It is quite clear that Mr. Conaway will be relying largely on Republican votes when he tries to get his bill through the House floor later this spring.

The Senate farm bill, S.3042, has been placed on the calendar for consideration this week, with a cloture vote scheduled for late on Monday, June 25th.  Given the nearly unanimous vote for the bill coming out of the Agriculture Committee, the legislation is expected to easily obtain the 60 votes needed for floor debate to ensue.The CBO score for the bill was released last Friday, and it contained few big surprises. As with the House bill, the Senate bill is effectively budget neutral over the ten-year scoring period, actually saving $107 million.  There is an unexpected savings of $2.3 billion over ten-years from a provision in the Rural Development title which allows cooperative lenders to underwrite loans for rural utility infrastructure, including electricity generation.  Overall, the trade, research, energy, horticulture, and miscellaneous titles receive modest net increases in mandatory funding over ten years, and the rest are either budget neutral or experience slight decreases in mandatory funding.


The Senate Agriculture Committee reported out its version of the farm bill on June 13th, with floor consideration expected by the end of the month.  This blog covers the highlights of the four largest titles–commodities, nutrition, conservation, and crop insurance.

On June 13th, the Senate Agriculture Committee marked up its version of the Farm Bill, in a very civil, business-like two and a half hour session.  Unlike the House version unveiled in late March which failed to gain passage on the House floor on May 18th, the Senate version was developed in a fully bipartisan process, led by the chair and ranking member of the Committee, Senators Pat Roberts(R, KS) and Debbie Stabenow (D, MI).  Under Senate rules, this bill will need 60 votes on the Senate floor to move forward, so the bipartisan engagement in its development was essential.

Continue reading “The Senate Farm Bill, Part I”

By Stephanie Mercier

Our history shows the way.  Hemp was one of the earliest crops grown commercially in this country, long before the United States actually became a sovereign nation.  The first formal record of its production appeared in a tax revenue document in the colony of Virginia in 1632.  Raw hemp and hemp products were a key export from the American colonies to Great Britain, used for ship rigging, clothing, maps, books, sails and tents.  Contemporaneous records indicate that two of our first three Presidents, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, raised hemp on their Virginia plantations.  This crop, along with wheat and corn, was commonly planted on farms as the United States expanded westward, although not in large acreage overall.

Continue reading “Hemp — A New Opportunity for US Farmers”

Oregon cowboy kids. Photo: Baker County Toursim

In addition to the discretionary cuts to USDA funding described in last week’s blog, the President’s FY19 budget also proposed $254 billion in cuts over ten years to programs in the four main titles of the farm bill, nutrition, crop insurance, commodities, and conservation.


Continue reading “Mandatory Farm Program Cuts in FY ’19 Budget Proposal”

Biofuel corn warehouse by Dennis Schroeder/NREL

By Stephanie Mercier


The U.S. government has been enacting farm bills to provide financial support to farmers since the passage of the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933, in the throes of the Great Depression.  There have been 17 farm bills passed since that time, with the current legislation, the Agricultural Act of 2014, scheduled to expire on October 1, 2018.  The House and Senate Agriculture Committees have been at work since the spring of 2017, holding hearings to examine the impacts of shifting market conditions on the performance of U.S. farm bill programs, not just commodity and crop insurance programs but also a broad range of policies covering issues such as nutrition, agricultural trade, conservation, research and extension, forestry, farm credit, horticultural and organic agriculture, renewable energy, and rural economic development.   Many of these policy areas have been added to farm bills in the last few decades.

Continue reading “Federal Policies Affecting Farmers”

Wheat harvest in Oregon by Jim Choate

Op-Ed, by Stephanie Mercier


Since the first farm bill, the Agricultural Adjustment Act, was enacted in 1933, there have been nine farm bills passed during the administrations of Republican presidents and nine farm bills enacted under Democratic presidents.  The upcoming farm bill, to replace the Agricultural Act of 2014 that expires on October 1, 2018, which is expected to be completed during the next few years during the Administration of President Donald Trump, would break that tie.


The new President has made few comments about farm bill policy during his first year in office, although he did promise to ‘support a farm bill that includes crop insurance’ in a recent speech to farmers attending the 2018 American Farm Bureau Federation convention in Nashville, TN.  

Continue reading “Presidents and U.S. Farm Bills – An Often-Uneasy Marriage”