House, Senate Ag Leaders to Meet Re: Ag Disaster, Farm Bill

July 31, 2012 03:20 AM

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Votes are not in place for one-year farm bill extension without ample House Democratic member support

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.

The leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture panels will meet today to discuss various issues, including the need for an agriculture disaster relief measure and to keep talking about the need for a new five-year farm bill. Congressional sources and others are signaling House GOP leaders may back away from getting a vote on a one-year farm bill extension and instead offer a stand-alone ag disaster relief measure.

Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) spent the weekend and Monday on the telephone with members to round up support, including a Saturday call to Agriculture ranking member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.). Peterson reportedly told McCarthy that he is still pushing for the House to take up the five-year bill that he and Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) passed through the panel earlier this month. He said he doesn’t think Republicans have the votes to pass the short-term measure and they did not consult Democrats in writing it. "It’s just mystifying to me why these guys can’t take yes for an answer. We got a bipartisan bill, we’re doing things the way we’re supposed to do it and then they come up with this extension, which they never even talked to us about," he told the North Dakota-based Red River Farm Network in a Monday radio interview.

Peterson has said he will not support the one-year extension of the 2008 farm bill unless it is a means to conference with the Senate-passed five-year measure.

Meanwhile, Agriculture Chairman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said Monday evening that the Senate would not take up the matter this week but would consider acting in September. She said disaster assistance could be attached to a six-month continuing resolution that would fund the government into 2013. That is a change in position for Stabenow.

Comments: To me this is an easy call. There can be no "official" conference on a new farm bill for the simple reason that the Senate-passed farm bill cuts food stamp funding by $4 billion, while the pending House farm bill cuts food stamps by $16.1 billion. Stabenow is already feeling heat to lower the food stamp cuts and certainly can't support increasing the cuts in an open conference. Meanwhile, more than a few House Republicans want to increase the food stamps cuts beyond the $16.1 billion level. The only way I see out of this logjam is to come up with some type of compromise during a post-election, lame-duck session of Congress and attach it to a must-pass bill. I do not see lawmakers from either political party wanting to deal with a farm bill in 2013.

Meanwhile, contacts signal that any resurrection (unlikely) of the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program (SURE) would cost $2 billion annually, "and the costs are rising almost weekly," as one source put it.



NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.






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