Stabenow, Some Farm Groups Start Blame Game, Pointing to House Speaker Boehner as Hurdle

December 18, 2012 10:12 AM

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Call to action sent by several commodity, other groups

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

Senate Ag Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) on Monday afternoon hosted a call with selected farm groups (not sorghum, rice and peanut groups) to discuss the status of the farm bill. She said they all need to work together to achieve a "Christmas Miracle" relative to getting a farm bill.

According to an account of the meeting by the National Council of Farmer Cooperative (NCFC), Stabenow emphasized the House remained the obstacle to passing a new farm bill and that she did not support any type of extension.

Importantly, according to the NCFC summary, Stabenow said she and others were still trying to determine Boehner's objections to moving on the farm bill before year's end -- a statement that cannot be confirmed separately in talks with key House contacts.

At one point, according to the NCFC summary, Stabenow reportedly noted she was not sure if Boehner's only objection was to the inclusion of the Dairy Security Act in the farm bill "implying that the objections could perhaps be overcome in that case." Stabenow then reportedly said she was supportive of the dairy provisions passed by the Senate.

Stabenow made another statement during the call, according to NCFC, in which she said she believes that agreement could be reached on the commodity title within two hours if the opportunity for passage this year presented itself. House contacts again noted that is an overstatement, with one source saying the Senate farm bill is 500 pages longer than the House version.

Stabenow, according to NCFC, gave a call to action to send up a loud message to House leadership, and that she was looking for a "Hail Mary."

NCFC wrote that immediately after the call, the group weighed in with the Speaker's office.

The National Corn Growers Assn. and the American Soybean Assn. in recent days have sent farm bill call to action memos to its members.

The National Corn Growers Assn. (NCGA), in an issue memo, said it has learned that Boehner "has no intention of allowing a five-year farm bill to be included in any 'fiscal cliff' tax and budget agreement." Instead, NCGA said, "the Republican Leadership is moving toward an extension with directions for spending reductions. Thus far, no substantive explanation has been provided by the Speaker as to why an agreement on a new farm bill between the House and Senate Agriculture Committees cannot be part of a 'fiscal cliff' package or other bill that may be advanced prior to the year’s end."

NCGA's memo continued, "As we have noted in recent reports, 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."

NCGA's commentary also said that, "Although considerable uncertainty remains over the end result of the fiscal cliff negotiations, the Republican Leadership has apparently made the calculation that the repercussions of failing to act on a new farm bill are not sufficient enough to warrant a change in direction. Until House Members from rural areas make a strong unified push for immediate action, a five year farm bill with long sought improvements in federal crop insurance and a robust commodity title are very much in jeopardy."

Perspective: Veteran farm bill contacts both on and off Capitol Hill are perplexed as to why some groups are getting so aggressive and earmarking Boehner, when calls to his office bring the usual refrain, "No final decisions have been made at this time. "

Farm bill contacts say the farm bill lobbyists need a vehicle and they should let the far bigger issue regarding a hoped-for fiscal cliff agreement between Boehner and President Obama proceed.

Sources see three possible outcomes for the farm bill:

  1. If a fiscal cliff deal involving tax increases and spending cuts can be reached between Boehner and Obama, then the best farm bill scenario would be to get a farm bill extension, and a date and budget reduction level for farm bill writers to meet in 2013.

  2. If any budget/deficit deal is a small one, then the farm bill effort could be limited to an attempt to extend the 2008 Farm Bill.

  3. If an extension of the 2008 Farm Bill does not have the votes for passage, then agriculture's dairy fiscal cliff would transpire, unless the Obama administration used the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) Charter Act to delay permanent legislation language that would significantly increase dairy price supports and thus milk prices.

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






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