Congress is back in session following a long August recess, and with their return came a late push by farm lobbyists and farm-state lawmakers for House leaders to schedule floor time for the farm bill the ag panel passed earlier this year. But this effort was largely political posturing, as only a few days remain until Congress again exits to hit the campaign trail. This makes pre-election passage highly unlikely.
During this push, Democratic lawmakers have been quick to blame farm bill inaction on the GOP-controlled House for lapsed livestock disaster programs. The irony is that it was Democratic lawmakers who truncated these programs in the 2008 Farm Bill to fit budget constraints. (This adds to a list of instances where the economic impacts of livestock policy are an afterthought for the industry.)
Farm bill timeline --
There will eventually be a new farm bill that includes a farmer choice with target prices rather than the one-size-fits-all approach of the Senate bill. House Ag Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), a farmer-choice proponent, will chair the farm bill conference. When a new farm bill moves to conference committee may be influenced by whether there is a 2008 Farm Bill extension and, if so, its duration.
A farm bill extension was not included as part of the six-month continuing resolution to keep the government running the House considered last week. So if there is an extension, it would have to stand on its own. It should be noted: The need for an extension soon has been overstated; any glitches that occur due to the bill’s expiry at the end of September will be minimal.
A three-month extension would up the odds house leaders will push for farm bill completion in 2012 — likely during the post-election, lame-duck session of Congress. A six-month extension would leave farm bill timing murky regarding 2012 or 2013 passage. A one-year extension would likely push the new farm bill end zone into 2013.
The presidential election makes farm bill passage timing even more uncertain. If Republican candidate Mitt Romney wins and the Senate gets a GOP majority, many think Republican Congressional leaders would want to punt the farm bill conclusion to 2013. Also under the Romney-win scenario, an outgoing President Obama wouldn’t compromise on tax and farm bill issues.
If Obama wins it would up the odds for a series of compromises during the four- to six-week lame-duck session that may include the farm bill conclusion.