The House failed to act on either the Senate or the House Agriculture Committee versions of a new five-year farm bill before the 112th Congress adjourned. So the last minute extension was the best the lawmakers could muster.
The short-term action extends the 2008 Farm Bill for nine months through September 2013. Both major farm groups and livestock organizations preferred a full 5-year farm act. Now it will be up to the 113TH Congress to start the process of hearings and testimony all over again in pursuing a 5-year bill. Experts say it will not be an easy road to get a new farm bill through Congress.
Mark Lange, president of the National Cotton Council, notes the U.S. House is still controlled by the Republicans, the U.S. Senate is still controlled by Democrats, and the same person is in the White House.
Failure of the 112TH Congress to pass a full 5-year farm bill already is having an impact, Lange notes. It means that even if a deal is reached this year, $24 billion to $30 billion in farm cuts for 5 years will have to see the reductions packed into 4 years.
Lange says the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 will be a "means test" for taxpayers. Although it authorizes limited disaster assistance for livestock producers for fiscal years 2012 and 2013, the funds still will have to be approved by the Appropriations Committee. That means that $80 million for livestock indemnity assistance is subject to appropriated funds.
A lot simply comes down to rain returning to cattle country. Beef prices have remained strong as shrinking numbers of feeder cattle continue to support the market.