For the second straight year, farmers are heading into a new year without a farm bill. The massive package provides government support for farmers and ranchers. Divisions in Congress, including over the nutrition programs that make up the bulk of the spending, have kept it from the president’s desk.
Farmers say it’s difficult to plan their crops and make other business decisions without a farm bill. Instead, Iowa State University agricultural economist Chad Hart says farmers must focus on the information they have.
"There’s a lot of uncertainty about the government policy that supports agriculture," Hart says. "But you know as far as making those business decisions on the farm, I would argue the more important things are the things that they do know and can control."
Hart says local prices, futures markets, and a field’s past performance are good influences for short-term decision making. But over the long haul, some of the federal unknowns need to be resolved. Lawmakers say they hope to pass a new five-year farm bill early in January. Until then, farmers are left to wait.