Farm Bill Stuck in Neutral

September 13, 2012 09:54 AM

Following yesterday’s rally on Capitol Hill pressing for a House vote on the Farm Bill, it appears a resolution is no closer.

“Speaker Boehner (R., Ohio) will have to make a choice. Either move the Farm Bill or face the loss of Republican Congressional seats out in the country,” one source who attended yesterday’s rally told Dairy Today.

But Boehner maintains he simply doesn’t have the votes in the House to pass the bill. Other sources have said the market stabilization portion of the Dairy Stabilization Act is one sticking point with the Speaker. A much bigger obstacle is the level of funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly referred to as the “food stamp” program. If Democrats would allow some cuts to that program and vote for them, Boehner might get enough votes to pull the Farm Bill through, our source says.

But the Nov. 6 election is one reason Boehner may be reluctant to move forward. Republicans sense they might pick up enough votes to take control of the Senate even as Mitt Romney’s prospects to become president fade. With control of both Houses of Congress, Republicans could shape the Farm Bill more to their liking next year, says Jerry Slominski, Senior Vice President for Legislative and Economic Affairs at the International Dairy Foods Association.

An extension of the Farm Bill for three, six or 12 months is a possibility, if not a likelihood if the Farm Bill doesn’t move. Such an extension does little for dairy producers, however, even if the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program is extended. Milk prices have recovered sufficiently from this spring and summer to make MILC payments minimal—if they are triggered at all. “A 36¢/cwt MILC payment won’t pay many bills,” says Jim Tillison, a senior VP with the National Milk Producers Federation.

Click here to hear Pam Fretwell’s interview of USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, who is 100% certain a Farm Bill will be passed.

Read CNN’s analysis of the Farm Bill impasse here.


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