Farm Bill Expires, Puts Nebraskans at Risk

By: Rowena Li Email
By: Rowena Li Email

With Congress out of session until after the elections, it's official: the Farm Bill expired Sunday at midnight.

"There are a lot of farmers that are probably a little upset with their congressman because they didn't bring it to the floor, so I'm sure it's going to affect the vote in some places," says Doug Nuttelman of Dairy Farmers of America.

Dairy farmers are the first group to be directly impacted by the expiration of the Farm Bill, as other groups are protected by provisions that will last through March 2013. Like others in the agriculture industry, dairy farmers are also hurting from high feed costs caused by the drought.

"The strategy right now is probably just to maintain ourselves until we get a dairy policy or prices improve. I don't think there's going to be any, feed costs I don't think are going to go down," says Nuttelman.

And while some doubt a lame-duck Congress will be able to pass a new farm bill, others like Nuttelman are optimistic. Farm policy reverts to a 1949 farm bill if a new replacement is not in place by January 1, 2013, and that old farm bill would be much more costly for the federal government.

"Most everybody is pretty well agreeing on the farm programs, whether it be crop insurance or dairy policy, it's a matter of getting settled as far as the feeding programs go," Nuttelman added.

But a new farm bill may mean heavy cuts to the food stamp program, which has been a key point of contention in the House of Representatives. And that makes those getting food assistance as unhappy as some farmers.

"It's hard enough for people to live now. Food prices go up, the rent goes up, everything but your wages," says Judy Martinez, who receives some food assistance.

In the meantime, experts say the first signs of fallout from the expiration that consumers may see will be higher milk prices. For now, all eyes are on the November elections.


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