Congress must pass a farm bill by March 15, and the lobbyist for the National Corn Growers Association believes it will happen.
"It will be done by that date, or pretty darn close," says Jon Doggett, Vice President for public policy at the National Corn Growers Association. "If not, it's going to be a royal mess."
Doggett spoke at an issues briefing just prior to the 2008 Commodity Classic, set for Nashville Feb. 28-Mar. 1.
Doggett did concede that if a bill isn't passed now the 2002 bill could be extended one or even two years, to let the next Congress take care of new legislation. Would Congress allow the law to revert to 1949 policies? "That isn't going to happen," he says.
So what will it take to pass a bill by March 15? The Senate, House and White House need to agree on a budget number. The most recent figure being floated is $10 billion above baseline, with the bill changed to a 10-year period, unlike the traditional 5-year farm bills. "They will need (Iowa Senate Ag Chair) Tom Harkin, the White House, and (Minnesota House Ag Chair) Collin Peterson all to agree, so I wouldn't bet that will get passed," he says. Payment limits and Adjusted Gross Income limits need resolution as well.
The other issue, says Doggett, is floor time. "If they get a conference report done soon then it will happen, but if you have a free-for-all in either chamber, the opportunity to get it done by March 15 diminishes significantly."
Congress will also be busy passing a budget, working on the sub-prime mortgage mess, and passing appropriation bills, says Doggett. But as far as agriculture is concerned, NCGA doesn't expect much more from this Congress, good or bad, beyond passing a farm bill.
"One thing you can count on Congress doing is, not much," he says with a laugh. "The elections dominate everything, so there's a reluctance to deal with tough issues."