The 2008 Farm Bill expired this week, a move that was not unexpected by many in the industry, an Ohio State University farm policy expert said.
It's not surprising the 2012 Farm Bill didn't pass before the current farm bill expired in such a politically divided Congress, which in turn reflects a divided country and a divided farm bill constituency, said Carl Zulauf, an agricultural economics professor at Ohio State and a farm policy expert.
And the drought of 2012,which is one of the worst in the last 50 years, may have played a role in the bill's failure to pass, he said.
"The drought didn't begin until relatively late into the (farm bill debate) process," Zulauf said. "Disagreement may exist as to what kind of disaster assistance programs should be added into the bill or passed in separate legislation."
Zulauf noted that it is not unusual for an existing farm bill to expire before the new farm bill is passed. This situation happened during the debate over the most recent, or 2008, farm bill.
"Failure to pass a new farm bill results in some programs no longer being funded," he said. "These programs include some programs in the conservation, specialty crop, trade, energy and conservation titles of the bill.
"Spending can resume when these programs are extended and funded, either in a new farm bill or some other legislation."
In addition, the Milk Income Loss Contract program, which compensates dairy producers when domestic milk prices fall below a certain level, will continue to make payments only through November if such payments are triggered, Zulauf said.
"But the crop insurance program is permanently funded and does not expire," he said. "And the crop support programs are authorized through the current 2012 crop year."
More than a dozen farm organizations issued a joint statement this week noting that while the expiration of the bill will have little to no effect on some farm programs, other programs could have a major impact on some dairy farmers, some specialty crop growers and those looking to enroll in the Conservation Reserve Program.
The group said in a statement that it is hopeful that Congress will commit to passing a comprehensive, five-year farm bill in the lame duck session.
But many of the provisions of the new bill likely hinge on the outcome of the upcoming presidential elections, said OSU Extension agricultural economist Matt Roberts.
"Most people thought that we wouldn't see much action on the farm bill until the lame duck session," he said. "Neither side wanted to offend anyone before the election.
"And both sides believe it is easier to blame the omission on the other side leading up to the election. Everything can change based on the election results."