Mike's Blog

Insights from the President of ProAg

The 2013 Farm Bill reaches “The Eleventh Hour” arrives on 11-11

by Mike Connealy on 11.11.2013

We have all heard the phrase known as “the eleventh hour”… It is derived from the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 20 Verse 6. This parable is about a landowner that is hiring laborers to work in his vineyard. He hires some workers at daybreak, some at 9:00 AM or so and finally at “the eleventh hour” he finds some more available laborers hanging around the town square. He asks, “why have you been here standing idle all day?”

Eventually, this generous employer pays those that he hired at “the eleventh hour” the same as he did those he hired at daybreak. The message being that it is never too late (unless you die) to get your life in order and win the kingdom of heaven.

The common usage today of “the eleventh hour” is always that it is “almost too late”. Nothing better describes the context of the conference committee on the 2013 Farm Bill better than “the eleventh hour”. We have an idle Congress – including this conference committee – standing around doing nothing. The conference committee convened for a couple of hours in late October, to provide a platform for the 41 members to make opening remarks. The House of Representatives then promptly adjourned until November 12th.

The issues that have to be resolved include an overall agreement with the Budget Committee on a “savings” number. If this is not accomplished up front, we have the danger that the Budget Committee controls the Farm Bill outcome via purse strings. A complicated, but very real scenario.

Contentious actual Farm Bill differences on various items such as Dairy, Commodity, the King Amendment, Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) and Conservation-Compliance for crop insurance premium subsidies must be handled. These are important issues that must be done in a thoughtful and timely manner. Timely means by 12-31-2013 at the latest – to reach this we need the conferees to be working, not standing around idle.

The “elephant in the room” will be the SNAP program. With nearly 80% of the nearly annual $100 billion tab for all Farm Bill programs being in the Nutrition Title, we will need leadership from the White House, Senate and House to arrive at a “SNAP savings” number that can pass both legislative bodies and be signed by the President. It is simple, it has to be done, let’s get going!

So, other than a lot of radio interviews, nothing official has actually been accomplished since the initial meeting of the conference committee. We urge everyone that has a house or senate member from their home district or state on the conference committee to contact them and urge  them to get going. Also, we very much oppose the AGI amendment that amounts to a means test in order to receive full premium subsidy. It is an administrative nightmare and also just an opening effort to allow future cuts to the program as deemed appropriate by members not actually informed about the crop insurance program.
Questions or comments are always welcome!

P.S. A ProAg Veterans Day shoutout to all of our Veterans plus all active members of the US Military Service branches, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard. We sincerely appreciate your past and current service on behalf of the good ol’ USA!


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