Farm Bill uncertainty - KALB-TV News Channel 5 & CBS 2

Farm Bill uncertainty

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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB News Channel 5)- The extension to the 2008 Farm Bill expired last September. Since then- Congress has failed to agree on a new Farm Bill. So what will happen if they don't come to an agreement in time for the new year? News Channel 5's Rachael Penton set out to find out.

There is uncertainty in the air when it comes to agriculture. Congress has not yet come to an agreement on a solution for the Farm Bill- leaving agencies like the local USDA office wondering what will happen next.

"That's what we do in this office is we administer those programs that are in the farm bill so without a farm bill or without an extension of the previous farm bill we really have no authority to carry out those programs," says Matt Gwin, of the Farm Service Agency.

Programs that include things like crop loans, research funding, and disaster assistance- like the one underway for victims of the drought- would be put on hold.

"I think that's one of the most important things about getting a farm bill passed so we do have some of those programs available that we can offer to protect the agricultural infrastructure," adds Gwin.

If Congress fails to pass an extension the law will revert back to the 1949 farm bill. This could set into motion a chain reaction of events we'll feel right here at home, like higher milk prices at the grocery store and changes to the food stamp program.

But agriculture commissioner Mike Strain is confident Congress will come to an agreement in enough time to stop these events from occurring.

"They are starting to work together. They're breaking the gridlock and I do expect a farm bill by - realistically- signed by the end of January," says Strain.

Events that could be devastating to a place like Central Louisiana- where agriculture is king.

"It has a negative effect on our overall agricultural economy. We would like to see an extension so those necessary things that facilitate this- the largest industry in Louisiana and in the United States are not hampered," adds Strain.

Congress reconvenes for the new session on January 3rd.

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