House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas, R-Okla., has voiced some concerns about the probability of being able to write a farm bill this year. But, American Farm Bureau Federation D.C. director Mark Maslyn says it's not too late for differing ag interests to come together on a farm bill this year.
Lucas says that the uncertainty over how much the next farm bill will be cut and the unaffordability of multiple safety net options is making it more and more difficult to write a farm bill this year.
Maslyn says Lucas's sentiment is understandable.
"What you are hearing is the frustration of Chairman Lucas that I think everybody else is also experiencing," Maslyn said. "It is much easier to come together when times are flush and the ready answers will usually find more money to accommodate the various wishes and those times are gone."
Maslyn says the so-called baseline of available dollars, based on prior spending, is shrinking and existing programs, let alone new ones, can't be funded.
"So I think what is happening is the different ag constituencies are individually, as you would normally want, what they prefer," Maslyn said. "I think it's not too late for people to come together and one thing that will contribute to that coalescing if you will is a budget number from CBO."
Maslyn says once the congressional budget office number is out, maybe in the next few weeks, it should galvanize the debate and possibly bring some folks together.
Farm Bureau delegates voted at their annual convention in January to back a safety net based on protecting against catastrophic versus shallow farm losses.
"Our voting delegates and our board came to the conclusion that it's not the right move to compensate for shallow losses," Maslyn said. "Rather for those deep catastrophic losses you hope never occur but usually do occur, occasionally."
And given the country's debt and dwindling resources they are still affordable to cover.
According to Maslyn the bottom line for the farm bill is that either something serious needs to be started this spring or early summer or probably there will be an extension. If that happens, it is likely there will be even less money available next year.