Expiration Exasperation

Teresa Olson
By Teresa Olson October 16, 2018 13:03


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United States Capitol Rotunda. Senate and Representatives government home in Washington D.C.

United States Capitol Rotunda. Senate and Representatives government home in Washington D.C.


The 2018 Farm Bill expired on September 30th, but what exactly does this mean?  This massive and complex  piece of legislation is like a huge bundle of dozens of different programs rather than a single bill and not all of these programs are treated equally after the expiration date.   Here are some points that I gleaned from various sources that helped educate me:

Farm Bill Basics:

  • Congress passes a new farm bill about every five years because of “Sunset provisions” (expiration dates written into laws that cease to be effective after a certain date unless further Congressional action is taken).
  • There are two significant parts to every government program – Authorization and Funding.  A program must have funding but can keep functioning without authorization.  Funding also has two parts – Mandatory, which is included with the authorization and Discretionary, which is determined yearly through appropriations (a separate bill or bills referred to as the “budget”).
  • Failure to pass a new bill by the September 30 deadline has drastic effects.  A few programs would survive, many programs we rely on would cease to operate, and others would revert to outdated permanent laws from 1938 and 1949 Farm Bills.

Some Expired Farm Bill Effects:

  • Most programs with mandatory funding in the 2014 Farm Bill are funded through 2018.  The CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) program is an example, however without a new or extended farm bill, there would be no more funding for the program.  Programs that fund and assist certain categories (beginning, organic, farmers of color) of  farmers as well as the Specialty Crop Block Grant have been frozen, and many conservation programs have paused.
  • Programs with discretionary funding may lose their authorizing language, meaning the USDA could change components of the programs.  This is not likely, but the agency would only be bound by the appropriations language – not the provisions in the expired farm bill. Ultimately, these programs would continue to operate
  • Two programs (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP and  Crop Insurance) that make up almost 90% of the farm bill spending remain in place in spite of the expired bill because they are funded through appropriations and have permanent authorization.  
    • SNAP’s authorization is part of permanent law under the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 and even though it was only funded through Sept 2018, the program continues assuming there will be a new FY 2019 budget.
    • The Crop Insurance Title of the farm bill provides a “safety net” of risk management options that protect farmers and their crops in the case of disaster.  The Federal Crop Insurance Act of 1980 permanently authorized this insurance, meaning it will continue to exist even without re-authorization or extension.  But the 2014 Farm Bill enhanced coverage so those losses not covered in the original 1980 Insurance Act cease.  The Shallow Loss Program first introduced in 2014 is an important program that is currently discontinued.
  • The Farm Bill title that covers Farm Commodity Programs has expired and now the only commodity programs that continue to exist are those in permanent law from the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938 and the Agriculture Act of 1949.  This reversion is extremely costly for the government, taxpayers and consumers because older laws are not equipped to handle current markets.  In addition, many of the ag products grown today such as soybeans, oilseeds, peanuts, and wool have lost support entirely because they weren’t part of the 1938 and 1949 Acts.
  • The Dairy Product Price Support Program is another dramatic example of 1938/1949 reversion problems.  Farm Bills over  past decades have significantly changed the program and this reversion requires the USDA to buy manufactured dairy products at about four times the then-current price, resulting in tremendous increases in government spending on the program as well as consumer dairy prices.


So while you might think the delay in passage of a 2018 Farm Bill is no big deal, digging deeper into the details indicates otherwise.  Andrew Walmsly, Director of Congressional Relations for American Farm Bureau, is optimistic there will be a new farm bill between election day and the end of the year because the four principal leaders are still at the bargaining table and their staffs are still working out details.


Let’s hope so.


-Terry Olson, Titan Outlet Store Team







Teresa Olson
By Teresa Olson October 16, 2018 13:03
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