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What's in the farm bill extension?

Technically the country did plunge over the edge of the fiscal cliff at 12:01 Tuesday morning, but the Senate threw out a lifeline later that morning with an 89 to 8 vote in favor of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012. Late Tuesday night the House approved Senate amendments on a 257 to 167 vote. The measure, which includes a 1-year extension of farm policy, was signed into law by President Obama Wednesday.

Most agricultural programs will continue until at least September 30, 2013. Milk support prices are suspended until December 31, 2013. Conservation programs also continue into the next year. The House’s disaster aid package is still in limbo after failing to move through the Senate, but the bill passed last night puts disaster aid for livestock producers back in place until September 30, 2013. Renewable tax credits also saw an extension; the Wind Energy production tax credit’s expiration date moved to January 1, 2014, and biodiesel credits will continue as they have until December 31 of this year.

Below is a breakdown of the agricultural features of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.

Sections 405, which concerns tax credits for renewable energy, may also be of note.

– Most of the 2008 farm bill is either extended to September 30, 2013, or until that part of the old legislation’s expiration date, which ever comes later.
– 2008 support levels for milk are kept intact until December 31; permanent law is suspended for covered commodities, peanuts, sugarcane and sugar for the whole crop year and for milk, until December 31.
– USDA is allowed to enroll 32,000,000 acres in the CRP program in fiscal year 2013. The number is identical to previous years.
– Authorizes $10 million to the voluntary access program to provide grants to encourage landowners to make their land public for wildlife-dependent recreation, such as hunting and fishing.]
– Adds fiscal year 2013 to appropriations for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s (SNAP’s) Employment and Training Program, but cuts the amount by $11 million, from $90 million to $79 million.]
– USDA is required to reserve $285 million for FY2013, in order to provide for States to carry out the Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Program under SNAP.
– Authorizes $25 million to the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative is extended to FY2013.
– Authorizes $100 million in funding for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (an attempt to disseminate unspecified scientific tools to address specific needs of speciality crops) is provided for FY2013.
– Authorizes $30 million for USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program. In the last several years the program also had a mandatory amount just under $20 million in addition to the $30 million also provided here.

Funding for the following energy programs is extended into 2013 with the following amounts;
– Authorizes $2 million to the Biobased Markets Program;
– Authorizes $150 million to Biorefinery Assistance;
– Authorizes $15 million to Repowering Assistance;
– Authorizes $25 million to the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels;
– Authorizes $1 million to the Biodiesel Fuel Education Program;
– Authorizes $25 million to the Rural Energy for America Program;
– Authorizes $35 million to Biomass Research and Development;
– Authorizes $5 million to the Rural Energy Self-Sufficiency Initiative;
– USDA is authorized to purchase sugarcane and sugar beets in 2013 pursuant to the Biomass Crop Assistance Program in order to avoid forfeiture of commodities to the Commodity Credit Corporation and thereby avoiding defaults on loans to bioenergy producers;
– Authorizes $20 million to the Biomass Crop Assistance Program;
– Authorizes $15 million to Forest Biomass For Energy;
– Authorizes $5 million to the Community Wood Energy Program;
– Authorizes $298 million in total in support of energy programs.]

Funding for the following Horticulture and Organic Agriculture Programs is extended into 2013.
– Authorizes 10 million to the Farmers Market Promotion Program;
– Authorizes $5 million to the National Clean Plant Network;
– Authorizes $22 million to the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program;
– Authorizes $5 million to Organic Production and Market Data Initiatives;
– Authorizes $20 million in funding for the Outreach and Technical Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers or Ranchers program.

Exceptions to the extension include:
– The conservation stewardship program, farmland protection program, environmental quality incentives program, and wildlife habitat incentives program, whose natural expirations are at the end of FY2014.
– A section of the 2008 farm bill concerning pending rural development loan and grant applications.
– Market Loss Assistance for Asparagus Producers as outlined in the 2008 farm bill.
– Supplemental Agricultural Disaster Assistance, which is outlined in Section 702 of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.
– A section of the 2008 farm bill examining the merit of Pigford claims.
This section of the bill takes effect on September 30th, 2012 or on the Act’s enactment, whichever is earlier.

– Clears up an extra incidence of the word “under,” a typo in the original bill.]
– Rewords the 2008 farm bill so that the Secretary is limited to $80 million in livestock indemnity payments as opposed to “as much as is necessary,” which is the text of the original bill.
– Authorizes $400 million each year for the livestock forage disaster program.
– Authorizes $50 million to disasters such as blizzards and wildfires not outlined in the original bill.
– Authorizes $20 million to the tree assistance program.
– Extends the period of effectiveness to the period betwen September 30, 2011 and September 30, 2013, which includes the losses from the 2012 drought.

Note that the preceding information only “authorizes” funding, it does not actually provide it. An appropriations bill will provide the actual capital to enact the measure, and will come at a later date.