Congress Could Get an Early Start on the Next Farm Bill

Oct 4, 2016

The next Congress may take up the farm bill a year ahead of schedule.

The current five-year farm bill became law in 2014. Congressional debate was contentious, including whether to keep nutrition assistance programs in the massive legislation that also funds the farm safety net, rural development and myriad U.S. Department of Agriculture priorities.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who serves on the agriculture committee, says low commodity prices and falling farm incomes could spur Congress to get started on the next law soon.

"Instead of dealing with a 2019 farm bill, I think there's going to be a lot of talk about, we've got to get a new farm bill passed in 2017," Grassley said. "Preempt the 2018, fifth-year of the 2014 Farm Bill, and get a new farm bill started a year early."

Other farm-state lawmakers have also said a new farm bill could be a way to help farmers survive the current slump.

Still, he cautions an earlier start to the next law won't provide immediate nor emergency assistance.

"We won't have time to make much difference for next year, except to make sure the farm loan programs have plenty of money available for farmers that can't finance through normal financing or bankers that are demanding a loan guarantee," Grassley said.

Commodity crop farmers are facing their third consecutive year of lower incomes.

But given the prolonged and heated Congressional debate that went into the current farm bill, some fear even meeting the original deadline for a new one will be a challenge.