House Working on Short-Term Extension of Dairy Programs

December 3, 2013 02:05 AM

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Effort being made to avoid big rise in milk prices in any move to 'permanent' legislation

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

The House of Representatives next week will likely offer language, perhaps as stand-alone legislation, that would include a short-term extension of current dairy policy in an effort to avoid any moves by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to implement so-called "permanent legislation" which would eventually result in a significant increase in milk prices.

Vilsack recently has noted that he "must follow the law" if there is no new farm bill in place by Jan. 1, 2014. But others say Vilsack could delay any implementation of permanent legislation to give Congress time in early 2014 to complete the lingering farm bill. Sources say they believe Vilsack is using the threat of permanent legislation implementation as leverage on Congress to complete work on a new farm bill.

Congressional leaders from both parties and in both the House and Senate still want to pass a new farm bill, but that process may take until early in 2014, perhaps as part of a Fiscal Year 2014 budget agreement.

The four principals of the farm bill process will meet Wednesday in Washington with a goal of reaching an overall agreement. It was initially hoped that all farm bill conferees would be called into a Wednesday session. While that could still change, at least at this juncture, only the four "principals" will meet – House Ag Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and ranking Ag panel member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), and Senate Ag Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and ranking Senate Ag panel member Thad Cochran (R-Miss.).

The topic of food stamp funding and policy continues to be the major unresolved issue, with sources saying Stabenow is "inching up" regarding the amount of cuts over ten years, but contacts say she is considerably away from the around $10 billion in food stamp funding cuts over ten years that House GOP negotiators would likely take to their leadership.

There seems to be little worry on Capitol Hill because lead negotiators believe that a new farm bill could be passed as part of a broader budget agreement, which must be enacted by Jan. 15 to avoid another government shutdown. On Monday, Stabenow did not rule out packaging a farm bill with other must-pass legislation. "I’m taking this one step at a time. That’s how we’ve gotten as far as we’ve gotten," she said in an interview, according to the Washington Post. "I believe this can be done by the end of this year if there’s the political will to do it."

Comments: The new farm bill saga continues. If the farm bill principals cannot come to an agreement by the end of next week, sources say congressional leaders from both parties and in both chambers will specify a date in 2014 for the principals to reach an accord, and if not, their work will be done for them, similar to what occurred before. Congressional leaders do not want another 2008 Farm Bill extension and thus want the principals to come to an accord.


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






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