Farm Bill Negotiations Continue as Clock Ticks on 2012

| December 31, 2012
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OMAHA (DTN) — Republican House leaders have come up with three separate  approaches to extend the 2008 farm bill bills and avoid an increase in milk  prices, but there is no certainty that Congress will consider any of the bills  before midnight tonight when this Congress comes to an end.     
Leaders of the Agriculture committees in both chambers worked on an  extension bill over the weekend when it became clear there was no possibility  of bringing up a new five-year farm bill before the end of the year. But the  one-year extension bill favored by the Agriculture leaders is controversial among House Republicans because it includes the dairy market stabilization  program that is part of the farm bill passed by the House Agriculture  Committee. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, remains opposed to the dairy  market stabilization program and on Sunday, went so far as to call it  “communism,” Politico reported.     
Late Sunday, the Congressional Budget Office released its score for the  one-year extension, which showed that a number of programs that did not have  baseline funding would be funded under the extension.      
The one-year extension of the 2008 farm bill adds $986 million in spending to the baseline costs for USDA programs mainly through special disaster  programs added back into the legislation. Disaster aid for livestock producers  and specialty crop programs is projected to cost $664 million, according to the  CBO.       The CBO also projected a $60 million savings in dairy programs with the  addition of the Dairy Security Act.    
The farm bill extension is being considered in the context of the “fiscal  cliff” legislation on which agreement has not been reached. Whether the farm  bill extension would be attached to such an agreement is uncertain. There is  also the possibility that the extension could be voted on separately or that it  will not be brought up today and will have to be reintroduced in the new  session that begins Thursday.     
House Agriculture Committee Frank Lucas, R-Okla.; House Agriculture ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn.; Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie  Stabenow, D-Mich.; and Senate Agriculture ranking member Pat Roberts, R-Kan., agreed to an extension through Sept. 30, 2012, that includes disaster aid and  the new dairy program. The bill also extends the direct payments program for  another year, but those payments would not be made until October 2013 and both  Lucas and Stabenow have said they want to finish the farm bill early in 2013.     
But to address Boehner’s dislike of the dairy program and other issues,  House leaders also filed two other bills — one bill for a one-month extension  of the 2008 bill and another dealing with the dairy issue. Another bill to  extend the farm program for a period longer than one month, but without the  dairy program has been prepared, but not filed.     
The proposals produced a flurry of comments Sunday from Lucas, Stabenow and  Peterson. “Clearly, it is no longer possible to enact a five-year farm bill in  this Congress,” Lucas said a statement.    
“Given this reality, the responsible thing to do — and the course of action  I have long encouraged if a five-year bill was not possible — is to extend the  2008 legislation for one year. This provides certainty to our producers and  critical disaster assistance to those affected by record drought conditions.     “The legislation posted is the result of discussions with ranking member  Peterson and my colleagues in the Senate. It is not perfect — no compromise  ever is — but it is my sincere hope that it will pass the House and Senate and  be signed by the president by January 1.”    
A few hours later, Stabenow said: “While the Senate passed a bipartisan  five-year farm bill in June that cut subsidies and reduced the deficit, the  lack of action by the House Republican leadership has put us in a situation  where we risk serious damage to our economy unless we pass a temporary  extension. If a new farm bill is not passed in the next few days, Agriculture  Committee leaders in both chambers and both parties have developed a  responsible short-term farm bill extension that not only stops milk prices from  spiking, but also prevents eventual damage to our entire agriculture economy.”    
She added, “It is critical that we pass a five-year farm bill that gives  farmers and ranchers the certainty they need to plan for the future. If a new  farm bill doesn’t pass this Congress, we’ll soon hold another mark-up and just  keep working until one is enacted next year.”    
Peterson endorsed the one-year extension with the dairy stabilization  program, but warned against other approaches.     
“Given House Republican leaders’ repeated opposition to a five-year farm  bill, House and Senate Agriculture Committee leadership has worked together to  write an extension of the 2008 farm bill which includes much-needed reforms to  the dairy industry. These reforms are the primary reason that I am even willing  to consider any extension,” Peterson said.    
He added, “I remain opposed to other efforts that would fail to reform the  dairy safety net, referring to two one-month extension measures that have been  filed by House Republicans.”    
“Given the improbability that both the House and Senate can enact long-term  farm policy into law within the next 30 days, the 30-day extension approach is  a poor joke on farmers that offers no certainty, just more empty promises from  the Republican leadership,” Peterson said.

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