Funding from the 2014 Farm Bill expired on Sunday, September 30 and there is no sign of an extension. This week, Congress considered a bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), the last potential legislative vehicle for a Farm Bill extension before the lame-duck session begins after the election. The FAA reauthorization passed on Wednesday without a Farm Bill extension which will put the issue on hold until after the midterm elections on November 6. Instead, lawmakers are pointing fingers and shifting blame to avoid any political consequences for the breakdown of the negotiations between the House and Senate. The top four negotiators, chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, met Thursday for the first time since the 2014 Farm Bill expired but there were no indications of progress.
The forestry title remains a sticking point in negotiations over the 2018 Farm Bill. The House version of the bill, HR 2, includes language from the Resilient Federal Forests Act, a forest management reform bill that passed the House in 2017. The language includes several provisions that would curtail environmental regulations, promote forest management activities, and reduce the threat of wildfires. The Resilient Federal Forests Act never progressed through the Senate, and the bill is opposed by conservation groups who argue the bill’s environmental reforms leave forests vulnerable to logging and over-production from foresters.
Democrats and Republicans will attempt to negotiate during the lame-duck session but there will be little political incentive to compromise. If Democrats win the House in the midterms they will likely stall negotiations until the new session of Congress begins in January 2019.