The House of Representatives adjourned for its August recess without having voted on a farm bill to replace the Food, Conservation and Energy Act, which expires Sept. 30. Instead, the House by a vote of 223 to 197 on Aug. 2 passed the Agricultural Disaster Assistance Act of 2012, which would restore four disaster aid programs that expired last year in order to provide an estimated $383 million in assistance primarily to livestock producers and tree farmers because of the drought.

The House Committee on Agriculture on July 12 passed the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (FARRM), its version of the farm bill, by a vote of 35 to 11. The full Senate passed its version of the farm bill in June. The hope was to have the full House vote on its farm bill before the August recess so the House and Senate could conference during the recess and pass a common farm bill in September.

House Speaker John Boehner said he didn’t want to bring the farm bill before a badly divided House. “You’ve got the left concerned about reductions in the food stamp program. You’ve got the right who don’t think the cuts go far enough in the food stamp program to bring it into compliance with what the law has been. And frankly, I haven’t seen 218 votes in the middle to pass the farm bill.”

The House leadership initially sought a one-year extension to the current farm bill combined with disaster relief. But it was clear the extension wouldn’t pass muster on the floor, and finally the House had to consider disaster relief on its own.

The cost of the disaster relief will be paid for by more than $600 million in cuts in funding to the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
It seemed no action will be taken in the Senate regarding the disaster relief bill until after the recess.

Hard winter wheat may be ‘dusted in’
Attention across the Southwest was beginning to shift toward preparations for planting the 2013 hard red winter wheat crop even as the drought continued to expand and worsen. Southwestern growers were not strangers to having to “dust in” their winter wheat crop because of dry conditions, and it certainly seemed many of them may face that prospect this fall.

Kansas Agricultural Statistics (K.A.S.) said of soil moisture in that state as of July 29, “Topsoil moisture supplies continued to decline to 69% very short, 27% short, 4% adequate and none as surplus. With 96% in the very short to short categories, this is the lowest July rating for topsoil moisture supplies since the program began in 1985 and the lowest overall rating since Aug. 24, 2003. Kansas subsoil moisture supplies also declined to 64% very short, 32% short, 4% adequate and none as surplus.”

Soil moisture in Oklahoma also was piddling with topsoil moisture rated 4% adequate, 25% short and 71% very short, and subsoil moisture rated 4% adequate, 32% short and 64% very short. Soil moisture was equally deficient in Nebraska with topsoil moisture 4% adequate, 29% short and 67% very short, and subsoil moisture at 4% adequate, 33% short and 63% very short.

Several weeks remain before planting, but unless nature is far more generous with moisture in August than it has been thus far this summer, the hard winter wheat crop will be planted in dry dirt, hardly an auspicious beginning. At the same time, veteran crop observers emphasized there will be time for the crop to establish itself should fall weather approach normal, and ultimately, it is spring moisture that is the most important determinant of a winter wheat crop’s prospects.