Now that the federal government is up and running again, the subject of farm bill legislation is a priority among many legislators in Washington.
The farm bill House-Senate conference committee had its first public meeting this week to revisit the measure, which has been a source of ongoing contention between Republicans and Democrats.
"I remain hopeful that the conference committee will keep the cost-savings reforms that were passed by the House," said Missouri Eighth District Congressman Jason Smith, who has been a supporter of farm bill legislation since taking office earlier this year.
"The House farm bill included $20 billion in savings by reforming or eliminating over 100 old and obsolete programs. The House farm bill also created an additional $40 billion in savings by reforming food-stamp eligibility to make sure that only those who really need government assistance receive it, and by not rewarding individuals who are able to find loopholes.”
The most recent farm bill extension expired on Sept. 30, which caused a number of farm programs to revert to permanent law – rate structures set in the 1940s.
According to a recent report from The Associated Press, failure to act on the estimated $500 billion piece of legislation could result in the cost of milk going through the roof, as dairy supports are expected to expire at the end of the year.
In a previous report with Smith, it was noted that the cost of a gallon of milk could easily double.
The primary issue with the bill has centered on cuts to the $80 billion-a-year food stamp program, referred to as the nutrition portion of the bill.
According to a Sept. 30 AP report, the House's $4 billion in cuts per year is contending with the Senate's $400 million in cuts per year.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has more than doubled since 2008, with more than 47 million Americans, using the program, the report said.
While the issue of food stamps remains an obstacle, time is running out.
“Now that the farm bill has expired we have a small window of time to pass new legislation before families are hit with higher grocery bills," Smith said. "I am optimistic about the prospect of passing a long-term farm bill.
"The short-term extensions of the past few years have certainly made it difficult for farm families to plan into the future.”
Conference Committee Chairman Congressman Frank D. Lucas (R-Okla.) said in his opening statement to the committee that "an effective safety net" is needed.
"The House farm bill reflects a belief in giving farmers and ranchers – no matter where they live or what they grow – something they can count on to help mitigate risks inherent in this business," Lucas said. "Whether it is the risk of a natural disaster or the risk of a multi-year price collapse, we must provide the tools for farmers to make it to the next year."
Page 2 of 2 - The AP report also states that a quick-fix would be to either combine the bill with budget negotiations or pass another extension.
The latter, however, is not a favorable action, especially for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).