After nearly two years of debate and one failed vote for passage in June, the House of Representatives passed a farm-only farm bill in mid-July. Not only does this version not address food assistance which accounted for 80 percent of past farm bill spending, House language eliminated provisions that made 1938 and 1949 permanent law. As the House version stands, we fear removing this legislative motivator would make this the last farm bill ever signed into law.
Permanent law is a unique policy mechanism that has served as an incentive for legislators to revisit the farm bill . . . as has inclusion of food assistance programs. At its basic level, every farm bill that has been passed since 1949 temporarily suspends permanent law. By suspending permanent law, 60-year-old parity pricing is held at bay and prevents food prices from soaring.
While the reality is that permanent-law pricing would never take effect, it has brought elected officials - urban and rural alike - back to the table to update the farm bill. Based on the fact it has taken two years to get a farm bill through the House with the permanent-law threat, we don't need any further proof of what may happen if 2013 pricing standards permanently replace those from the World War II era as the law of the land.
Despite all the concerns we have with the recent passage of the House farm bill - including the straight party line vote, breakdown of bipartisanship and removal of the food assistance portion of the farm bill - our greatest concern is eliminating the last lever we have to urge congressional leaders to revisit the farm bill. That is why we implore the congressional conference committee to strike newly-created language that would make the 2013 farm bill permanent law.