ONE MIGHT ASSUME that agricultural associations would find common cause in the passage of a new farm bill. But as POLITICO reports, the most prominent cash crop growers—including those growing corn, soybeans, rice, and cotton—are butting heads over their share of limited subsidies, and it’s putting the new bill in peril.
Part of the reason for this is that there’s far less money to go around than in previous farm bills, and lobbyists for each crop are at each other’s throats over the limited funds. Further, as The Hill reports, both Democrats and Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee insist on basing subsidies on what farmers actually plant, rather than on historical crop yields.
Also contributing to the fractious (and possibly self-defeating) relationship between commodity interest groups is the fact that there isn’t a trade association with enough power to unite the warring factions. Bob Stallman, President of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said that AFBF will “do what it can to help close ranks on any remaining issues – for the good of the whole of American agriculture,” but so far growers remain divided.
The good news? For one, as The Hill notes, the farm bill won’t automatically die if a deal isn’t reached by the end of the year. This leaves open the possibility that a deal is struck before Christmas, with a vote coming in January. Indeed, Congress is under pressure to pass a new farm bill by 2014, when current subsidies for milk would expire, causing dairy prices to rise.
A lot is at stake for both agricultural associations and Congress in the weeks leading up to Christmas. A deal may get done eventually, but it’s clear that the rival associations aren’t doing themselves any favors by remaining at odds. Many swords must be turned to plowshares before there’s reconciliation in the farming community.