LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska farmers and ranchers are trying to figure out what help they can expect from the federal government after Congress failed to extend the farm bill.
The Lincoln Journal Star reports (http://bit.ly/OxziMU ) that many people involved in agriculture expect Congress to pass some kind of farm bill during the lame-duck session after the elections.
Although the legislation is known as the farm bill, one of the biggest expenditures in it is the $80 billion-a-year food stamp program. Disagreements over the food stamp program contributed to the stalemate on the bill in Congress in September.
Several key programs in the bill expire at the end of the year. University of Nebraska-Lincoln farm policy expert Brad Lubben said it's unlikely lawmakers would want to let the law expire because then some programs, like support for dairies, would revert to 1949 law and the provisions would be costly.
"Nobody thinks we're going back to 1949," he said. "It's economically inefficient or sort of irrelevant. It's politically unacceptable, even technically unfeasible. I can't come up with enough adjectives to describe it."
Even though the federal fiscal year ends Sept. 30, most federal programs and jobs tied to the farm bill will continue as before.
But it's not entirely clear what programs will be immediately affected by Congress' inaction, because some funding provisions are mandatory and some are discretionary. Some programs are tied to crop years.
"Nutrition assistance does not disappear on Monday," Lubben said. "That's looking good for the next six months."
The 450 Nebraskans who work for the Farm Service Agency will also continue to be employed. But executive director Dan Steinkruger said he can't remember a time in his 35 years with the FSA there has been this much uncertainty.
Steinkruger said the uncertainty will prevent the FSA from approving any new Conservation Reserve Program contracts to add new land to the program.
Lubben said the expiring provisions of the law will likely force Congress to act before the end of 2012.
"We can say we hit the snooze alarm for the farm bill here," Lubben said. "But there clearly is a ticking clock, and it's midnight, Dec. 31."
Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com