Implications for Farm Bill in House Pullback of Plan B

December 21, 2012 02:38 AM
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Farm bill officials need a budget savings number to advance bill

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

“There will be no new farm bill without a number,” one veteran farm bill observer said. “And that means a new farm bill debate could go well into 2013 and this means an eventual extension of the 2008 Farm Bill on some must-pass measure to avoid agriculture's fiscal cliff relative to dairy policy and a move to permanent law.”

While Feb. 27, 2013, is reportedly the date for a House Ag Committee markup of a new farm bill in the new Congress, that timeline is iffy should Congress and the White House not deliver on a fiscal cliff package that some say may not occur until the end of the first quarter 2013. If so, that would suggest a short-term extension of existing tax rates and a short-term blockage of sequestration (across-the-board cuts) cuts to defense and domestic spending programs that very few lawmakers want to see take place.

While the current focus is riveted on House Republicans pulling back on its ill-fated Plan B, the real driver of the fiscal cliff issue in the weeks ahead is the dreaded sequestration cuts that White House and congressional leaders want to avoid. Veteran observers say a few days are needed to let the latest congressional dust to settle and when lawmakers return on Dec. 27, the hope is for more substantial and meaningful negotiations on the lingering issues.

Bottom line: Without a big deal between the White House and congressional Republicans and Democrats, there is no budget savings number and therefore the farm bill process continues in its murky category and the farm bill becomes a lengthy process in 2013. Some observers still see a deal — perhaps by March — but they stress Congress has to stop voting on pieces and put the big deal together. Republicans don’t want to vote on raising any taxes without significant entitlement reform, while President Obama and Democratic lawmakers must get serious about cutting a deal and be willing to offend some of their own constituencies. Otherwise, there will be no deal. Veteran observers say President Obama is not using political capital gained from winning the election and if the big deal does not get done, the president's second term agenda is imperiled.

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






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