Big Four issue bland statement as USDA prepares for expiration of current law | TheFencePost.com

Big Four issue bland statement as USDA prepares for expiration of current law

The leaders of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees met Wednesday to discuss the future of the new farm bill. At left are Senate Ag Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and ranking member Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. At right are House Agriculture Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, front, and ranking member Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn.

With the expiration of the 2014 farm bill looming Sept. 30, the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate agriculture committees met Sept. 26 on the new bill, issuing a photograph and a one-paragraph statement that they are still at the table and making progress.

Meanwhile, the Agriculture Department began telling people what programs will not be available when their authorizations end.

The leaders' joint statement did not mention the expiration of the current law or a schedule for finishing it, but they told reporters that they are now aiming to finish it during the lame duck session after the midterm elections, according to media reports.

"Each of us is still at the negotiating table, and we remain committed to working together on a farm bill," said Senate Agriculture Committee Chairmen Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., the chairman of the conference, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, and Senate Agriculture ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and House Agriculture ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., in a joint statement.

"Our conversations are productive, and progress toward an agreement is taking shape. We are going to get this right," the statement said.

The Farm Service Agency sent out a notice to state and county FSA offices last week that it will not accept or approve any applications for the Conservation Reserve Program after Sept. 28 because the authorization has expired.

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The CRP idles land to improve the environment and create wildlife habitat.

"This notice provides policy for not processing offers and not approving CRP contracts for all signup types after Sept. 28, 2018," according to the notice obtained by The Hagstrom Report.

Ferd Hoefner of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition said that most programs run by the Natural Resources Conservation Service will "come to screeching halt."

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which is also run by NRCS, will continue through fiscal year 2019 because it was included in the budget deal earlier this year, Hoefner said.

Hoefner also noted that there are 39 "tiny but mighty" programs that help beginning farmers that will not function after Sept. 30 because their authorization has expired. ❖