With Congress back in session after the November election, farm groups are pushing for inclusion of a five-year farm bill in any legislative package that deals with the looming “fiscal cliff.” The Senate-approved farm bill would contribute $23 billion in deficit reduction while the version passed by the House Agricultural Committee would provide $35 billion in savings. The 2008 Farm Bill expired on Sept. 30, and most of production agriculture has reverted to “permanent farm law,” an arcane set of price supports and allotments dating back to the Depression era., Dairy farmers would see the first change on Jan. 1 when milk prices are set to double in price should Congress fail to act. The SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps) and crop insurance programs continue as is under separate permanent authorizations.
William Murphy, Risk Management Agency Administrator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will retire in December after more than 30 years of work in Federal crop insurance, announced USDA Undersecretary Michael Scuse in an email to staff on Nov. 30. In his four years as RMA Administrator, Murphy also served as Manager of the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation, helping to provide economic protection for farmers. “His legacy,” Scuse wrote, is a program “that’s sound for the taxpayer, and predictable and stable for U.S. producers.” Brandon Willis, currently senior advisor to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, has been named acting administrator for the interim.