Anyone wishing for an approved farm bill this holiday season is getting a big "Bah, Humbug!" from Congress. The Associated Press reports that the House has passed an extension of farm law until the end of January, as lawmakers keep working on a new five-year farm bill.
The National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) released a statement on this news:
The four principals (Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla.) have been exploring various ways to frame the commodity title in order to please all parties while staying within their budget target. This has proved to be difficult, and the negotiations and a possible vote on the final package have been pushed to January when Congress returns from the Holiday recess.
Chairman Lucas (R-Okla.) filed a one-month extension of the 2008 farm bill on Tuesday night, which passed the House floor this afternoon by a voice vote. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said that any extension the House passes is dead on arrival in the Senate. The possibility of the "dairy cliff"—dairy prices rising significantly on January 1 once permanent law kicks in—is a significant motivator to move on an extension.
However, Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) stated that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack assured her there would be no impacts on dairy prices in January. This allows negotiators to continue their work and prepare a conference committee report that can be voted on early next month. NAWG is encouraged by the progress that has been made and is looking forward to a comprehensive five-year farm bill being passed in the near future.
The American Soybean Association offered some additional context:
The Senate will stay in DC next week, and Chairman Lucas and Ranking Member Peterson have agreed to stay to work on the bill as well, so it is likely that the leaders will hammer out their deal before the end of the year, then pass it to the conferees for review when Congress returns Jan. 7. This points to the potential that a deal can be considered by both Houses of Congress during the second week of January.
With regard to the Commodity Title, reports are that the draft framework would offer a choice for producers between keeping their current base or updating their base to an average of what they’ve planted the last five years. Additionally, producers will have a choice between the Senate’s ARC program and the House’s PLC program. Currently, leadership is in a holding pattern as all parties wait for the Congressional Budget Office to score the bill’s draft language. Once the bill is scored, the leaders will have to adapt their plan to fit the budget number given to them by CBO. This means that both PLC and ARC could look very different, depending on how much CBO says they’ll cost.
The Atlantic has recently criticized the farm bill as being "the poster child for Washington dysfunction."
"The farm bill may have been overshadowed by spending bills, Obamacare, and other higher-profile controversies, but it tells us way too much about the do-nothingest Congress in our lifetime," writes correspondent Norm Ornstein.