HTML _ IB10085 - The 2002 Farm Bill: Overview and Status
3-Aug-2001; Geoffrey S. Becker; 8 p.

Update: Although most provisions of the current farm bill do not expire until 2002, the House Agriculture Committee, on July 27, approved an omnibus measure (H.R. 2646; H.Rpt. 107-191) that would reauthorize agricultural, food, and related programs from 2002-2011. Its action followed extensive hearings to solicit proposals from agricultural interest groups. The Committee chairman is seeking floor action in the fall.

The Senate Agriculture Committee, too, has been holding hearings and receiving proposals for new farm policies, but a markup has not yet been scheduled.

As work began in earnest on this longer-term bill, Congress also passed another bill (H.R. 2213) to provide $5.5 billion in ad hoc assistance for 2001 crops. The measure passed the House on June 26 and the Senate on August 3, and was expected to be signed into law by the President.

Abstract: Federal farm support, food assistance, agricultural trade, marketing, and rural development policies are governed by a variety of separate laws. Although these laws may be considered and reauthorized as free-standing legislation, many of them are evaluated periodically, revised, and renewed through an omnibus, multi-year farm bill. The Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform (FAIR) Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-127) was the most recent omnibus farm bill, and many of its provisions expire in 2002.

Every omnibus farm bill spells out farm income and commodity price support policy - namely the methods and levels of support that the federal government provides to agricultural producers. However, farm bills also typically include sections on agricultural trade and foreign food aid, conservation and environment, domestic food assistance (primarily food stamps), agricultural credit, rural development, agricultural research and education, and marketing-related programs. ¨Miscellaneous¨ provisions dealing with subjects such as global warming, food safety, and animal health and welfare are often added.

The House Agriculture Committee held extensive hearings this year, and marked up an omnibus bill (H.R. 2646) on July 26-27, 2001. The panel chairman is seeking full House action after the August recess.

The committee bill would set a commodity-based support policy through 2011 (for 10 years) that would: provide fixed payments, new counter-cyclical assistance tied to target prices (a guaranteed per-bushel pricing system which had been eliminated in 1996), and marketing loans for grains, cotton, and oilseeds; continue planting flexibility with no supply controls; extend with some modifications dairy, sugar, wool and mohair, and honey supports; create a new peanut support program similar to that for major row crops, and without quotas; expand conservation program funding; reauthorize agricultural export and food aid programs; and include provisions for research, nutrition (food stamps), credit, and rural development.

The Senate Agriculture Committee also has been holding farm bill hearings but has not yet indicated when it might begin to mark up legislation. Some observers believe a final bill might not clear Congress until 2002.

The congressional budget resolution (H.Con.Res. 83), completed in May 2001, reserves for FY2002-FY2011 an extra $73.5 billion in direct spending for farm and related programs. This total is over and above the $116.9 billion projected for agriculture programs under a current-law baseline for the same 10-year period. Thus, the agriculture committees likely have a total of $190.4 billion for agriculture, conservation and related programs over the 10-year period beginning in FY2002. The House committee bill would utilize most or all of this amount.

(The resolution also permits Congress to increase agriculture spending by $5.5 billion in FY2001. A bill providing these ad hoc funds for 2001, H.R. 2213, passed the House and Senate prior to the August recess and was expected to be signed by the President.) [read report]

Topics: Agriculture

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