Farmers have until May 10 to apply for funding under the Conservation Stewardship Program, the largest working lands conservation program in the country, the Natural Resources Conservation Service announced Friday.
The average farmer probably won’t notice anytime soon that the 2014 farm bill has expired, but producers who try to sign up for some conservation programs could be turned away, and some commodity groups will have to go without some trade promotion funding on which they have counted.
The strained farm bill negotiations have erupted in partisan bickering amid darkening prospects for reaching an agreement by the end of the year to replace the 2014 law, which expires Sunday, Sept. 30.
A USDA savings account for rural electric and telephone cooperatives that allows them to earn substantially more interest than they could from private bankers has become a major source of potential funding for a new farm bill.
When House and Senate negotiators sit down in coming days to start writing the final version of a new farm bill, they will find that many of their sharpest differences will be over how far they should reshape and fund conservation programs.
Leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee are working to finalize key details of their draft farm bill, including changes to the Agriculture Risk Coverage program, with hopes of bringing the legislation out of committee sometime in June.
The White House has endorsed the House farm bill ahead of a contentious floor debate, saying the legislation would provide certainty to farmers while imposing “common-sense work requirements” on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Republicans expect to advance a farm bill in the House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday despite Democratic anger over its reforms to food stamps, but the legislation also would make significant changes in policy and funding across many other sections, including conservation, rural development and horticulture.