Prove your humanity

UPDATE 10/1/2018:

The Farm Bill expired Sunday night without agreement between the House and Senate conference committee on its renewal. According to Politico’s Morning Agriculture report, USDA Secretary Sonny Purdue provided assurances that the millions of Americans who receive food assistance will continue to get SNAP benefits, and that farm safety net programs, like crop insurance, will still be funded. But there are nearly 40 other programs, including those for conservation efforts, for veterans-turned-farmers, and for organic research, that no longer have funding as of today.

Last week, Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts said arrangements were being made to prevent a lapse in those programs, but Politico reports that since then, neither top agriculture  lawmakers nor USDA officials have provided clarity on what the USDA will do without authorization for these programs.

The farm bill is a massive, 860-billion dollar piece of legislation that’s renegotiated every five years. The current bill expires on September 30th, 2018. So what does it mean for Pennsylvania farmers?

It’s looking unlikely that an agreement on the farm bill will be approved by a House and Senate conference committee by Sunday’s deadline. If no deal is made, programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides food benefits to millions of Americans, will still be funded. These benefits have been a major sticking point in negotiations, because the House version adds controversial new work requirements.

LISTEN: “Dozens of Programs at Risk if Farm Bill Expires”

Pennsylvania farmers also expect funding to continue for the crop insurance program they rely on.

Steve Groff farms corn, tomatoes and squash in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

“I don’t see this as a crisis looming,” Groff says. ”I see it more as an impetus to, ‘Let’s get this deal done. Let’s move on. Let’s update it and move on.’”

If there’s no agreement on the new farm bill before the current bill expires, the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau also expects a program to protect dairy prices to be funded at least until the end of the year.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition writes that more than $1 billion in conservation and specialty crop funding will be frozen starting October 1. That includes funding for the Conservation Reserve Program, the Conservation Stewardship Program and others.

According to the Farm Bureau, Pennsylvania farmers received $42 million dollars for conservation projects in 2017

The Coalition says that these programs have over $1 billion available nationally for fiscal year 2019, but the USDA does not have the legal authority to dole out that money, without a short-term farm bill extension.

According to Politico’s Morning Agriculture report, published Friday morning, there are around 40 programs that would be in jeopardy if the farm bill expires without an extension, and might have to shut down temporarily.  

Senate Agriculture Chair Pat Roberts told Politico, “We’re making arrangements so that they don’t close in this interim period.”


Photo at top: cjuneau / flickr