Friday, December 13, 2013

No U.S. Farm Bill – yet

The House of Representatives has voted to extend the existing Farm Bill yet again, this time into January.

The politicians have been trying for almost two years to come up with a new Farm Bill, but the Senate and House of Representatives, the Republicans and the Democrats, are still locked in an impasse.

The Democrats want to retain or increase food aid for poor people; the Republicans want to cut it.

The Republicans want to retain or increase farm subsidies; the Democrats want to cut them.

And in the background are two emerging developments that could throw a spanner into the works.

One is trade negotiations with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the other with the European Union and both could result in major cuts to farm subsidies and trade barriers.

The other is declining prices for gains, especially corn, that could trigger substantial payouts.

One of the big issues for Canada is the failure, yet again, of U.S. politicians to back off County of Origin Labeling for meats.

The World Trade Organization has ruled the old regulations illegal under the U.S. trade obligations; the new ones are, Canadian and Mexicans and U.S. meat packers say, even worse and therefore likely to also be rejected by the World Trade Organization.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz hopes the new Farm Bill will incorporate a measure to end the unfair discrimination against Canadian livestock, discrimination that costs Canadian farmers about $1 billion a year. The extension into January delays any possibility of that happening.