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Details of extension unclear, including scope of programs and duration.
With precious little time remaining in 2012 and odds all but nil for a new farm bill to be completed, Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) are now looking at the prospect of extending the 2008 Farm Bill -- something Stabenow has flat out resisted until now.
"We're talking with all the leaders about what a short-term extension would look like. We are looking at that . The challenge is we have 37 programs that have no baseline to be extended," Stabenow said, according to Congressional Quarterly.
Stabenow said if Congress approved a farm bill extension her intent "would be to immediately do a markup in the new year and get a farm bill done. I am sure it would be February."
Stabenow said she would like a short-term extension, but gave no time frame.
But there appear to be differences between Stabenow and Roberts on what the extension should include. "You could have a clean extension or you could have an extension adding some things in, which I think would be more difficult. If you tried to add something in for one specific crop or one specific area, what do you do for the rest of them?" asked Roberts, according to CQ. "I would hope that we don't do one particular section of the farm program and leave the rest. We might as well do a clean one or do the farm bill," he said.
Stabenow, whose state has a sizeable dairy industry, indicated she might try to address dairy policy in an extension because "existing dairy policy doesn't work." But getting the controversial dairy gross margin/supply management program attached to any extension is given low odds by most veteran farm bill observers.
PERSPECTIVE: At this point a year-ago, indemnities totaled $7.9 billion on their way to a record of $10.839 billion. That pushed the loss ratio for 2011 crops to.91 while payouts have already shoved the loss ratio to .87. Total premiums under the program were $11.959 billion against $11.044 billion for 2012 crops. That also means the subsidy level is slightly lower but will not keep the program from being a focus for lawmakers and other groups who want to reduce US farm program spending.