The clock is ticking. Thirty-nine days remain until the current farm bill expires.

Despite this – and the fact that merciless drought continues across much of the nation – there seems to be few concrete answers about what Congress will do to address the situation when lawmakers return from August recess.

The Senate, said North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad this week, “carefully negotiated a new five year bill that enjoyed broad bipartisan support. We are prepared to negotiate a compromise with the House, but before we are able to do that, they need to reverse course and make the bill a priority.”

Full farm bill coverage here.

With a national election season in full swing there is little chance for House farm bill action to occur soon.

“There’s no indication that the House will be able to pass a standalone farm bill anytime soon,” says Pat Westhoff, director of the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI). “At least it won’t pass one before November, it appears.”

While it may be a while before a farm bill is earnestly tackled by the full Congress, a new FAPRI study (see study here) compares the programs already proposed by both the Senate and House.

Westhoff was interviewed by Farm Press on August 21. Among his comments:

On the FAPRI study…

“We looked at the bills passed by the full Senate and the House Agriculture Committee. The bills do have a lot in common. Obviously, both include the elimination of direct payments and the creation of new programs intended to provide help to farmers and lenders when some bad thing happens, whether they face low prices or low revenue.

“The basic notion behind the two bills is pretty similar with similar levels of spending expected by the taxpayers. We shouldn’t be too surprised that our results show that the overall impacts on average levels of farm income are also pretty similar.

“There are some important differences, though.”

On the House Agriculture Committee farm bill…

“The House bill puts more of its emphasis on the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program. In some ways that’s like our current counter cyclical payment program.

“There are two major exceptions. One is that the target prices are higher than under current law. Second, just as importantly, payments are tied to how much you plant rather than historical base acreages. It’s also important where those target prices are set. In our analysis it would result in significantly larger payments for some crops than for others.”