It's Clear: New Farm Bill End Zone Will Push Into 2013

December 19, 2012 12:26 AM
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Stabenow has 'Plan B' for disaster aid | Dairy policy remains a thorny issue

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

Only some farm-state lawmakers and some aggressive farm group lobbyists thought that there was a chance that a nearly 1,000-page farm bill could be dropped into a possible end-of-year fiscal cliff deal between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). That is not and will not be the case – and the disgruntled lawmakers and lobbyists are openly blaming Boehner.

But sources close to Boehner's office say a farm bill could still be provided a budget savings number and a deadline for action as part of a fiscal cliff package. If so, that would necessitate some type of extension of the 2008 Farm Bill – and a likely renewed push by some to resurrect lapsed livestock disaster aid and other programs.

A dairy policy issue is a thorny one as Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) has said any extension must include the dairy gross margin/supply management program included in both Senate and House farm bills – a very unlikely development. If not, Peterson told Politico, he could bring up to 40 members to vote against any fiscal cliff package. Another option would be to resurrect the lapsed Milk Income Contract Loss (MILC) program on a September to September basis. 

Meanwhile, Senate Ag Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), according to Congressional Quarterly, lent her support Tuesday to a one-year extension of disaster aid for ranchers and farmers, signaling a compromise farm bill may no longer be possible in this Congress. Stabenow has been aggressively opposed to any type of farm bill extension unless part of a five-year farm bill. However, Stabenow left open the possibility of supporting action on the agriculture disaster programs if it looked as though a final farm bill was unlikely. “We are still working very hard to complete a farm bill, to have the House take action, but in the meantime we have disasters that have occurred,” Stabenow said in a floor statement. “These provisions are lifted directly from what we already passed in the farm bill that addresses what has happened in terms of livestock drought and fires and assistance for fruit growers.”

On Tuesday, Stabenow became a cosponsor of an amendment on agriculture aid by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), to the Superstorm Sandy disaster supplemental bill (HR 1). The Merkley proposal would provide fiscal one-year funding for five agriculture disaster programs using money from the Commodity Credit Corporation. The programs would cover loss of livestock forage on private and federal lands; livestock deaths on private or public lands because of natural disasters; emergency assistance to livestock, honeybee and aquaculture operations; replanting costs for nursery tree and orchard growers; crops for which federally subsidized insurance is not generally available, including aid for fruit growers with losses in 2012.

If the new farm bill is punted to 2013 as most now expect, then both the Senate (again) and the House would likely have to vote on the legislation, with debate on the floors of both chambers -- including some likely contentious amendments up for debate. The timeline for completing the bill, some say, would be August.

Moving the farm bill into 2013 could bring some budget baseline issues if a new baseline from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) coming in March is used instead of the current budget baseline. The National Corn Growers Association earlier this week in a note to its members wrote, "... delaying action on a five year farm bill will result in Budget Act scoring using a new January Congressional Budget Office (CBO) spending baseline, one that will reflect new price estimates well above March 2012 estimates of $4.96 for corn and $11.00 for soybeans. Along with raising the cost of revenue based commodity programs tied to the 5-year Olympic Average Price that sets the revenue guarantee, the delay increases the probability for cuts in crop insurance premium subsidies as the Congress and President look for alternative budget offsets to reduce across the board cuts to defense spending as required by the Sequestration Act of 2011.”

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






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