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Farm Bill Proposals and Legislative Action in the 110th Congress

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Abstract:

Many provisions of the current omnibus farm bill, the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-171), expire in 2007. Without new legislation, notably in the area of farm commodity and income support programs, permanent statutes will take effect. Most of these statutes were enacted decades ago and are no longer compatible with current national economic objectives, global trading rules, and federal budgetary or regulatory policies. The 110th Congress is expected to consider legislation to reauthorize the farm bill.

The 2007 farm bill debate differs from the 2002 debate in some important ways. First, the 2007 farm bill faces potentially significant budgetary and spending constraints as well as constraints due to U.S. trade commitments and obligations under continued multilateral negotiations. Second, the Bush Administration has submitted its own detailed proposal for the 2007 farm bill, which seeks certain changes to existing programs and provisions. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns has repeatedly stated that the Administration's goals for a new farm bill are for it to be "equitable, predictable and beyond challenge." In past farm bills, the Administration has not issued specific recommendations. Third, many other groups, including both traditional and non-agricultural interests, have also submitted recommendations for the 2007 farm bill. Each of these groups is seeking to exert influence on the scope of U.S. farm policy and might also seek certain modifications to current law. In addition, some non-traditional coalitions have emerged in pursuit of specific farm bill policies or programs that would be of mutual interest. This report provides a summary of some of the proposals and recommendations offered to Congress for changes in the farm bill. These proposals could expand the scope of the farm bill, which would allow other constituencies to benefit from farm programs beyond the traditional base.

Congress initiated debate on a 2007 farm bill in the 109th Congress. Throughout 2006, the House and Senate Agriculture Committees conducted a series of hearings reviewing federal farm policy. Both committees conducted hearings related to farm bill programs early in the 110th Congress. In March 2007, two comprehensive bills were introduced in the House of Representatives that seek broad-based changes to existing farm legislation. Other bills have been or may soon be introduced that cover specific programs and provisions and may later be added to other larger bills. Public statements made by the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Collin Peterson, have indicated that he intends to complete work on a new farm bill prior to the August 2007 recess, with full congressional action by the end of September.

This report will be updated as new major legislation relating to existing farm bill statutes is introduced in the House and Senate in the 110th Congress.