Timing of Next Farm Bill Murky

January 12, 2012 11:03 PM
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via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Will it be 2012 or 2013?

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

Odds still favor completion of a new farm bill sometime this year rather than 2013 – perhaps during a post-election lame-duck session. But that prediction is laced with what ifs which if not met could easily slip the farm bill timeline into 2013.

Watch the Senate. The House has learned to let the Senate go first on a host of must-pass bills. Reason should be simple: it is hard to get anything through that chamber of winds.

Senate timeline. Most observers signal the Senate Ag Committee should markup its version of the omnibus farm bill by Memorial Day. Senate Ag Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) is up for reelection and she and her staff are geared up to make that apparent deadline.

Before any markup in the Senate Ag panel, there will be several hearings, but just a few as Stabenow and Company are ready to roll on putting language on paper and getting votes underway.

If the Senate markup timeline is met, the House Ag Committee will spring into action. Timeline for the House Ag members would be a markup vehicle, which is expected to have some differences with the Senate, by the July recess.

If the above timeline is acted on, then there would be enough time to work out differences between the two chambers.

When the markup documents move to the floors of the House and Senate is murky, but the key chamber is the House, where more than a few members will likely want to offer some contentious amendments. Of importance will be what type of rule will follow the farm bill in the House.

A final floor vote on the farm bill could be kicked until after the Nov. 6 elections – in a lame duck session of Congress.

Those thinking the farm bill will not be completed until 2013 justify their prediction by simply noting the inability of Congress to agree on anything. Others note that some GOP senators may drag their feet on completing the farm bill if they think Republicans will gain control of the Senate in 2013, as there are 23 Democrats up for reelection and only 10 Republicans.

A not-so-simple extension. If the farm bill can is kicked down the road to 2013, the current farm bill authorities that expire at the end of September would have to be extended. And there is nothing simple in Congress nowadays – not even a “simple” extension. Any such move would bring out farm bill naysayers to offer several amendments, much as they want to do in any full-fledged debate. If you know you're going to have that occur anyway, why not just do the farm bill.

Besides, what else are lawmakers in the Senate and House going to do this year? Not much. Bring on the farm bill.

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


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