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Sep-26-2012 21:42printcomments

Congress Skips Town, Farmers Prepare for Return to 1949 Farm Policy

Barring a vote, Congress could have opted to extend the 2008 farm bill for one more year.

Farm in Oregon
Courtesy: Nadene LeCheminant

(MCMINNVILLE, OR) - Stymied by fears of a Tea Party revolt, Congress skipped town last week, ignoring a critical farm bill with a Sept. 30 deadline, says an economics professor at Linfield College in Oregon.

“When the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 expires Monday, the nation will revert to the Agricultural Act of 1949 as the last permanent farm legislation,” said Linfield Professor Eric Schuck. “Citizens don’t realize what the impact will be. We’ll see farm policy dictated by guidelines put in place more than six decades ago.”

Pushing the decision down the road, Congress didn’t even schedule a vote.

“Reversion to the 1949 act will be absurdly expensive for already strapped federal coffers, as crop price supports will be tied to pre-World War I era indexes,” Schuck said. “Using this outdated method, the current support price for wheat will be nearly $18 a bushel, nearly twice the current price and more than four times the current government target price.”

At the same time, Schuck says, crop prices may balloon, making farm incomes even less stable than they already are.

“Unfortunately, the damage from reverting to the 1949 act will extend beyond the farm gate,” said the Linfield College professor. “It will affect consumers and the environment.

“The 1949 farm bill does not include programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), which are critical for millions of families caught up in the recession,” Schuck said. “Environmental programs will be harmed and most soil conservation programs will evaporate, leaving us ripe for dust-bowl conditions and even more devastating droughts.

“It would be diplomatic to assign blame on a bipartisan basis, but that’s not exactly fair,” he said. “The current vacuum in leadership was due to Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s unwillingness to bring the Agricultural Committee bill up for a vote. Concerned by a Tea Party revolt on his right over the farm bill’s cost and Democratic opposition to nutrition assistance cuts, Boehner tried to patch the problem with an inadequate drought-relief bill. This simply does not solve the problem.”

Barring a vote, Congress could have opted to extend the 2008 farm bill for one more year. An extension would have maintained coverage for current food assistance and conservation programs, avoided the cost of 1949 price supports, and given producers the stability needed to plan for the 2013 crop year.

“The 1949 act represents a bygone era in American agricultural policy,” Schuck said. “Its return will present overwhelming challenges for producers and the cost will greatly outstrip current programs.”

Schuck teaches economics at Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore.

Eric Schuck
Professor of Economics
Linfield College
(503) 883-2385

(Editor's note: We mistakenly posted Dr. Leveque's bio with this story, that was our mistake, thank you)

News release from Linfield College, special thanks to Nadene LeCheminant

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amanda September 27, 2012 12:30 am (Pacific time)

Shiping out of extending a farm bill. should teach us something about our representatives in Congress.

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