The 1996 Farm Bill Process was difficult to get enacted, but this is nothing new.
In 1990, the Farm Bill process was made difficult by the fact that it coincided with deficit reduction efforts and a strong focus on conservation issues.
In the beginning of 1995, a normal process was scheduled and anticipated, with field hearings, District of Columbia hearings, subcommittee meetings, and full committee meetings. The process was interrupted however, for a couple of reasons. First, the general Congressional schedule (on unrelated matters) was jam-packed, and this made it difficult to schedule Farm Bill action.
Also, it was becoming apparent that the overall budget consideration was going to result in a very significant reduction in projected farm program spending. Cuts would be so deep that considering policy without addressing the budget at the same time was considered to be nonsensical. As a result of these develop-ments, the normal process for considering a farm bill was not undertaken as planned. Instead, the Agriculture Commi-ttees proceeded to make a 7-year farm policy in the context of the larger budget debate.
By the time both Houses passed their farm program bills, it was determined that there would not be enough time remaining for this Congress to do a separate bill, and so all issues were dealt with in conference--including those not addressed in the House bill. As a result--at least on the House side--consideration was not given in the normal way to matters related to research, credit, conservation, and other miscellaneous categories.
They put off this action because they were very concerned with doing all they could to make sure that the research apparatus is efficient and is serving the needs of the family farmer, who is being increasingly exposed to intense competition. In this process next year, your input will be sought about how to go about such an important undertaking.
Aside from research, what happens next is unclear. If nothing else, we know that something will have to be done in time for the 2003 crop. One section of the Farm Bill calls for the establishment of a Commission on the 21st Century Production Agriculture.
It is supposed to submit its reports to Congress by June 1, 1998, and by January 1, 2001, including specific recommendations for legislation "to achieve the appropriate relations of the Federal Government with production agriculture." One of its tasks is to assess distinctly the economic risks to farming and ranching operations of various sizes.
Between now and the year 2002, many things can happen. One thing that we are used to doing is a technical corrections bill in the year following the Farm Bill year. It is not clear that such a bill will come up next year, but it is possible and perhaps not too unlikely.
A point of clarification, too: some editorial boards hailed this Farm Bill as being the one that ended farm programs. This, of course, is inaccurate. The Farm Bill's policy runs for 7 years, and at that time Congress will have to act again.
Again, I am very grateful for the opportunity to be with you and explore these matters and look forward to hearing from you or seeing you in Washington.
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