“They’ve got a lot of names for these (proposed) programs, but they tend to be variations on a theme that would include some level of revenue coverage,” Novak says, adding that crop insurance will likely comprise an integral part of this new approach.

“There’s some discussion right now about changing premium structures,” he says. “Companies made money last year, but that’s not going to be so true this year, especially in the La Niña situation.”

The Wetlands and Grasslands Reserve programs, along with other conservation programs, may also fall under the ax. Other programs will also be under scrutiny.

Some biofuels initiatives, which figured so prominently in the 2008 farm bill, may possibly fall on hard times in the upcoming farm bill, Novak says, adding that 37 programs do not have a budget baseline and money must be found to continue them.

Broadly speaking, Novak says farmers should expect a bill that in addition to being less generous will be considerably more revenue-based.

While the shape of the next farm bill is currently open to wide speculation, Novak remains certain of one thing: The U.S. farming industry would do itself a big favor by learning to act like a dinosaur rather than a team of strong-willed, unruly horses — an analogy inspired years ago by a child’s spontaneous remark during a Sunday morning’s children’s moment at his local church.

As the minister carefully laid out a case for why horses pulling a coach should work together as a team, the minister’s young son weighed in with his own unique solution: replace the horses with a single dinosaur.

The lad’s suggestion stuck with Novak, who has used it time and again to illustrate one of the underlying challenges of farming: ensuring that farm interest groups work as one hulking dinosaur rather than as a team of defiant horses.

“The problem, as it relates to agricultural policy, is that we don’t have any dinosaurs,” Novak observes. “We’re all horses, and that’s been the problem — all these farm interests have been pulling in different directions.”

As Novak sees it, this is a luxury farm groups no longer can afford in these austere times.

(For another view of how Congress feels about legislation during an election year, visit http://southeastfarmpress.com/government/congress-has-little-appetite-action-election-year.