Farm Bill Conference
As of this article writing, the House and Senate were
engaged in what we call Congressional gymnastics: a
conference committee on the farm bill.
For starters, let’s examine why the House and Senate now
find themselves in conference committees. A conference
committee is an effort to merge bills on the same subject
passed separately by the House and Senate. The House
approved a farm bill. The Senate did too. But as you might
imagine, the bill budget forged by the GOP-controlled
House is a lot different from the product yielded by the
The Senate signed off on its version with relative bipartisan ease, despite a $4 billion cut to food stamp programs
(Sometimes called SNAP - Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs). Meantime, the House labored to finish
its own farm bill. One version of the measure melted down
on the House floor as Republican leaders were unable
to convince enough of their own members to vote ‘yea’.
That iteration of the farm bill struck $20 billion from food
stamp programs. The House eventually resorted to cleaving the bill. It passed a “farm-only” portion. A few weeks
later, the House passed a “food stamp-only” package, hiking the number of SNAP cuts to almost $40 billion.
If conference committees are successful, they produce
blended versions of both packages, called “conference reports.” The unified conference report then goes back to both
the House and Senate for another set of approvals. Both
bodies must vote in favor of the new conference report.
But as suggested earlier, the farm bill conference committee must come up with something which can pass both
chambers. That’s because the farm bill is just that: a bill
with the potential to become law. There could be economic
consequences affecting the everyday lives of Americans if
they can’t weld together a farm bill.
In many respects, the stakes are high for the farm bill. And
some prognosticators are already forecasting catastrophic
results if the sides falter in efforts to reach a farm accord.
Let’s understand how a farm bill works and explore why a
worst-case scenario might not come to pass – at least not
right away – if House and Senate conferees strike out.
Farm bills run for five years. In fact, the House and Senate
were supposed to approve a new farm bill to replace the
ate were supposed to approve a new farm bill to
replace the 2008 package last year. But the House
could never conjure the votes to pass one. Eventu-
ally Congress re-upped most farm programs for just
a year in the so-called “fiscal cliff” measure okayed
this past January 1.
Farm bills set current policy, but are not permanent
law. Those two phrases are important. Permanent law
for U.S. farm programs date back to the early 20th
century and specifically, major pieces of legislation
passed in 1938 and 1949. So if Congress is unsuccessful in passing a new farm bill to establish new,
current policy, then permanent law kicks in. That’s
where doomsayers worry about crazy price fluctuations for groceries, milk, meat and the basic tenets of
America’s food supply.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume that there’s no
deal on a new farm bill and no additional extension
of existing programs. The first problem facing the agriculture sector is what some have dubbed the “dairy
cliff.” The 1949 law would kick in come January.
The 1949 statute incurs an antiquated price support
system for dairy farmers, forcing the government to
purchase milk products at levels well above market
prices. Economists predict milk would spike as high
as $8 a gallon. Similar issues follow with the next
commodity in the queue, winter wheat. It wouldn’t
take long until weekly trips to the grocery store for
families devolved into major pocketbook busters.
This could create a run on certain goods, reminiscent
of “bread riots” in old Europe.
But it probably won’t get to that. Here’s why:
Imagine Congress never updates the farm bill and
the nation reverts to permanent law. It would take
the Department of Agriculture weeks if not months
to write new policies on how to execute the old law.
And that’s to say nothing of weeks and months of
potential “comment periods” where stakeholders can
weigh-in on the new provisions. This could take a
while – thus delaying the real deadline to solve all of
this well past January 1. At the very least, Congress
could also approve another extension of the 2008
farm bill which is now on the books.
To cut a deal, the sides must vault the most-daunting
of hurdles: food stamps. Not in recent memory have
there been such stark policy differences in companion
pieces of legislation passed by the House and Senate.
The cost of SNAP has more than doubled since 2008.
The current thinking is that the Senate is going to
have to come up (on its dollar figure of cuts for
SNAP) and the House is going to have to come down.
But that spirit of compromise doesn’t satisfy those
trying to protect the food stamp program. Hardlin-ers want to protect food stamps ‘as is’ and take away
from farm programs.
That’s what worries lawmakers on both sides of the
aisle. People are still smarting over the failure of
Congress to finish the measure last year. The implo-
sion of the original farm bill in the House in June with
$20 billion in SNAP cuts still resonates. No Democrats
would vote for even the $20 billion in SNAP reductions.
That coupled with a number of moderate Republicans
who jumped ship, too. So the only measure which could
pass the House was $40 billion in cuts. And nobody
quite knows what is the vote mixture is in the House for
tolerating more than $4 billion in cuts on the Democrat-
ic side and less than $40 billion on the GOP side.
Such are the tales of the farm bill conference committee. The stakes are high for the farm bill. And that
conference committee must produce a result soon – or
stomach some very onerous results.
What Are These
Brazilian watermelon shows
tolerance to mosaic virus
Agristar expert in cucurbits and product
development, Eduardo Cleto, told RuralBR the Explorer watermelon showed
reduced losses from the watermelon mosaic virus and zucchini yellow mosaic
virus. “Compared to other materials that
are now being sold in the market, it actually provides a condition of decreased
losses from virus attacks,” Cleto was
quoted as saying. “The Explorer is on
average 10% to 20% more productive.”
While the fruit had improved productivity, Cleto said it was still important to
control the aphids and thrips that transmitted disease.
“Farmers need to control these vectors. If
the virus reaches the area, it is necessary
to eliminate the plants that have symptoms, and avoid staggered plantings,”
the expert told RuralBR. The productivity results come from plantations where
the Explorer has been introduced in the
states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, São Paulo, Mato Grosso do Sul and
Goiás, as well as parts of the northeast.
Cleto added the variety had good post-harvest characteristics during transport.
A new watermelon from Agristar do Brasil has shown
strong tolerance to key diseases that affect the fruit, while
also producing a sweet and crunchy intense red flesh.
For a melon the size of a grape, this fruit sure has a lot of
names: Mouse melon, cucamelon, Mexican sour gherkin,
Mexican miniature watermelon, cuka-nut, and sandíita
(Spanish for ‘little watermelon’).
Whatever you want to call them, mouse melons are an
adorable addition to salads, salsas, and stir-fries (and dollhouse tea parties, if you have young children!) The vine-growing mouse melon is native to Mexico and Central
America, though seeds are readily available in the U.S. Its
flavor and texture are
similar to a cucumber’s,
though with tangier
undertones. The mouse
melon’s hint of citrus
flavor makes it an ideal
vegetable for pickling,
though it is equally
fresh in salads, or
just eaten plain as a