It could be a critical year in 2018 for farmers with a new Farm Bill to be taken up this year.

The current Farm Bill will expire on September 30, meaning this will be the last crop season to be covered by the bill along with assistance benefits like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Conservation Reserve Program.

Farm Management Analyst Kent Thiesse says there is urgency to pass another Farm Bill.

Farm Management Analyst, Kent Thiesse.

“As we all know with Farm Bills, there is permanent legislation that goes back to like 1949 that kicks in if they don’t either extend the current bill or pass a new one. Of course, that is very outdated. Programs like CRP and the Food and Nutrition program and some other programs didn’t exist back then, so many, many programs that we know today, would go away.”

The odds of that wouldn’t be likely, as lawmakers would most likely pass an extension if there were the lack of a bill. That was the case when the last Farm Bill was implemented in 2014.

“This year I think will again be a challenge because you have a lot of big issues sitting in Washington, DC right now. Related to the Federal Budget and then of course you have the mid-term election year in 2018. So, it will be interesting if they are able to move the Farm Bill. Most of the experts feel that if they don’t get it done in the first four or five months of the year here, the odds start to get less and less.”

Thiesse says there has been a push from the livestock industry for legislators to address bio-security in the new Farm Bill.

“Worried about things like foot and mouth disease and do we have enough vaccine. I think that was brought on maybe by the Avian Flu outbreak here in Minnesota and the upper Midwest a couple years ago,” said Thiesse. “How well prepared are we for these kind of pandemic situations.”

Another key area has been the maximum acres in the CRP program, which was reduced to 24-million acres in 2014. There has been a push to bump the maximum back up to 28 to 30-million acres.

“One of the challenges with a Farm Bill, any time you push for adding new things it costs money. Of course the Federal Budget deficit keeps growing and with the last Tax Bill, that’s probably not going to lower it any. So, it’ll be a challenge I think coming up with any new dollar for a Farm Bill and hopefully holding to what they have.”

Trade with Canada and Mexico are also other issues that will be negotiated, which includes the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).