It’s increasingly likely that neither a five-year farm bill nor a farm bill extension will be approved this year thanks in large part to opposition from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), says Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
"This is a ticking time bomb here waiting to go off, and it makes no sense," Stabenow told reporters during a Thursday conference call. In particular, Cantor has "made it clear" that he does not want a farm bill, though House Speaker John Boehner appears to want to get it done, she says.
Friday marks the final day of the session for both chambers of Congress before a five-week recess.
While senators working on the legislation had hoped to go to conference committee on the farm bill immediately after the recess, Stabenow says, they now must wait to see what the House does with its nutrition title. Reuters has reported that House Republicans are prepared to propose $40 billion in cuts to food stamps, twice as much as had been sought earlier.
Compounding the situation is the reality of the calendar: In September, the House is scheduled to be in session just nine days.
"The clock is running, and it’s running out on us in terms of a five-year comprehensive farm bill that will make sure that our farmers and ranchers have the risk-management tools that they need," Stabenow says.
While she, other legislators and staff members will continue to meet informally about the farm bill, serious discussion won’t be possible "until we have the full parameters in front of us."
An extension is unlikely, she said, because the Senate already has voted twice to end direct payments. Those same payments were kept intact as part of the extension approved in 2012.
"I’m being asked why, in the context of sequestration and deficits and debates about budgets, continue a subsidy that everyone believes should be eliminated? So this is going to be a very difficult discussion if we don’t get this done."
Assuming neither a new bill nor an extension is approved by Sept. 30, provisions of the 1949 farm bill would take effect, The Washington Post reports.