The 2018 Farm Bill Expired
Why aren’t farmers crying out?
The 2018 Farm Bill expired on Sept. 30, 2023, as government officials focused on passing a 45-day continuation of the federal budget. With no Farm Bill in place, why aren’t farmers crying out or marching on Washington, D.C.?
Amy Hagerman, an associate professor of agricultural economics and Oklahoma State University Extension agricultural policy specialist, said the expiration will have limited impact in the short term but could have long-term impacts without a continuation.
Without a continuation or resolution of the Farm Bill, some commodity programs would revert to outdated legislation created in the 1930s and 1940s, Hagerman said.
The Farm Bill has some longevity outside of its official expiration.
Certain programs that operate on calendar or crop years designated for official reporting will continue through the end of 2023 and into 2024.
“I expect we’ll see a lot of conversation around the budget in the coming weeks,” Hagerman said. “That’s really important for the Farm Bill as well, because the budget determines the money for some of those programs (operating under the 2018 Farm Bill) and for USDA offices to administer the programs.”
Hagerman predicts the Farm Bill will be extended before the end of this year. A short extension could indicate a new Farm Bill will be considered soon, whereas a lengthier extension could result in 2018 Farm Bill rules and regulations staying in place for the foreseeable future.
“Producers should pay attention to risk management in general for their whole farm and stay in close touch with what the deadlines are and what changes might be on the horizon,” Hagerman said.
The Farm Bill’s commodity programs
There are two principal expiration dates, which were September 30, 2023, and upcoming December 31, 2023. According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the timing and consequences of the farm bill expiring vary by program.
Certain programs with provisions that expire at the end of FY2023 may cease to operate.
For programs with a fiscal year authorization that are funded with discretionary appropriations, or for programs with mandatory spending authorized but not appropriated by the farm bill—such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—an appropriations act or continuing resolution could allow operations to continue.
For the farm commodity and dairy support programs that expire after the 2023 crop year, the consequences begin on January 1, 2024, when inactive and outdated laws—commonly called “permanent law”—would be restored for dairy, the first commodity affected in the new crop year.
Passage of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 extended some programs and many conservation programs remain funded through FY2031. Programs such as crop insurance are permanently authorized and would not be affected by farm bill expiration.
It is important, then, for producers to understand any new legislation and know which programs are available to them, OSU’s Hagerman said. Some legislation will not be affected by the Farm Bill expiration, but other rules or appropriations could be void until further action is taken.
What happens if a new Farm Bill isn’t passed?
As previously mentioned, permanent law enacted decades ago would result be greater federal outlays for agricultural commodity support than under the 2018 farm bill.
Using dairy as an example, permanent law would compel USDA to purchase dairy products (whole milk, butterfat, and products of such commodities) in quantities sufficient to raise demand so that the farm price of milk would rise to the desired support level.
Under permanent law, the mandated purchase price for milk would be $50.70 per hundredweight, or 162% higher than the current market price of milk.
The high purchase price under permanent law could result in the government outbidding commercial markets for a sizeable share of dairy output, and subsequently raising the retail price of milk.