When Congress reconvenes on January 23, one of the top priorities will be to get a new Farm Bill written. However one of the biggest concerns for legislators and lobbyists alike has been if the $73.5 billion originally earmarked for farm programs would still be there after the first of the year. The answer from the White House has been “yes.”

Larry Combest, chairman of the House Ag Committee received a letter from Mitch Daniels, the president’s budget director, at the end of session last year saying the funds would remain intact. The letter stated: “The president has been very clear about the policy we need to build long-term prosperity for America’s farmers and ranchers. A sound, bipartisan farm policy will provide a solid safety net for all farmers and ranchers, expand markets abroad for American agricultural products, and increase resource conservation in ways that enhance our environment. The president has been clear about the need for a generous Farm Bill in order to help farmers and ranchers through this difficult period. As a result, you have our commitment that the administration will continue to support additional 10-year program funding of $73.5 billion in accordance with the Congressional Budget Resolution” passed last spring.

However, a lot of work remains. The Senate still needs to finish its Farm Bill, and then any discrepancies with the House version passed in October would have to be worked out in conference committee.

Bob Stallman president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, says it will be difficult to complete and implement a new farm program before spring planting season begins. And if Congress fails to enact a new farm-subsidy program in time to cover this year’s crops, Stallman predicts that Congress will need to provide a multibillion-dollar farm bailout later this year. Lawmakers have provided $30.5 billion in farm rescue payments since 1998 to offset low grain prices. Congress has earmarked up to $7.3 billion in additional funds for the new crop if needed.

House Ag Press, Reuters