Since his election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1990, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) has seen plenty of farm bills. Both chambers of Congress worked together, as did Republicans and Democrats.
That optimism has faded considerably this year, the ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee tells AgriTalk. Discussions about a five-year farm bill remain gridlocked, and some House Republicans are backing a plan to cut $40 billion from food stamps when it’s clear the Senate won’t touch it.
"We’re in a never-never land here," Peterson says. "We don’t know if we’re going to get a bill, we don’t know if we’re going to get an extension, we don’t know if we’re going to go to permanent law."
Click play below to hear the full interview with Peterson:
The process might trudge forward Thursday, when a House vote is scheduled.
"This vote is going to come up, apparently … we’re not sure if it’s going to pass or not. Whatever happens, (House Speaker John) Boehner told me they’re going to appoint conferees. Well, that’s at least another step in the right direction. The question’s going to be after that, is the Republican leadership going to leave us alone and let us work this out with the Senate, or are they going to interject themselves into the conference and make demands like they did on the floor, which caused this bill to go down in the first place. That’s what I’m worried about."
If farm bill debate stretches into December, he says, it’s likely there will be talk about implementing an extension. But political will for that path is severely lacking. Senate leaders such as Harry Reid and Debbie Stabenow have opposed it, as has the Obama administration via Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.