ISU Expert: Little Impact from Lack of Farm Bill; Dairy First

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By Rachel Begle

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - With each passing day, it becomes more likely the House and Senate will adjourn until after New Year's Day without passing a farm bill.

Last week, members of the conference committee working to resolve the differences between the House and Senate versions said they were close to a deal on the final product. However, they said it wouldn't be ready for a vote until mid-January. To prevent starting the year without the agriculture and food assistance program, the House passed a temporary extension of the current farm bill through the end of January. Senate leaders said they wouldn't take up the temporary measure because passing it would remove the pressure to finish the bill.

The farm bill is unique in that it lasts for five years and covers both agriculture subsidies and food assistance programs, including food stamps. Not having a bill in place creates uncertainty for those who rely on those programs.

Ryan Drollette, a farm management specialist from Iowa State University Extension, says not having a farm bill will impact different industries at different times.

"A lot of the farm bill provisions and the commodity title that they look at have to deal with the commodity and the year in which it is harvested."

Drollette made the comparison between dairy and corn. With this year's harvest already in from the field, he says corn farmers won't feel any potential impact from not having a farm bill until the fall of 2014 when it's time to harvest again.

"The dairy side of things is a little different because dairy farmers go out every morning...and it gets harvested instantly."

For dairy farmers, not having a farm bill in place means their regulations revert back to legislation passed in the 1930s, which economists say would lead to price increases for all dairy products.

Drollette said there wouldn't be any immediate impact from not having a farm bill, allowing lawmakers time to reach a compromise in January before starting any negative consequences.

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