As much of the country bakes under a merciless sun, the bizarre journey of the 2012 farm bill has taken another strange turn.
Unwilling to schedule floor time for the farm bill passed out of the House Agriculture Committee earlier in July, several attempts by Republican House leadership to provide cover for farm state lawmakers prior to August recess have fallen flat. As of Tuesday, it appears you can add their plan to extend current farm law to the list of failures.
Such failure won’t disturb a growing list of prominent farm/commodity groups that have come out against an extension.
Still, Oklahoma Rep. Frank Lucas, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, is surely in danger of whiplash after being jerked around by forces seeking to control the farm bill and debate. When it became obvious that House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor would not allow the farm bill to reach the House floor, Lucas was convinced to support a one-year extension of the 2008 farm bill.
The House farm bill would cut spending around $35 billion over 10 years. Some $14.5 billion of that would be axed from nutrition programs.
The extension – which would have been paired with drought disaster aid -- would have allowed Republican lawmakers from rural areas to face drought-plagued farmer/rancher constituents with something in hand during the recess.
However, Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, has made it clear he’d agree to the extension only if it would lead to a Senate/House conference on a new farm bill prior to current law expiring on Sept. 30. Boehner and Cantor, backed by a group of lawmakers eager to make even deeper spending cuts to the proposed farm bill or kill it off altogether, aren’t going to make such assurances to Peterson.
Legislative affairs representatives of farm and commodity groups say without Peterson – a former House Agriculture Committee chairman capable of pulling other Democrats to vote for the extension – an extension is very unlikely.
A standalone drought disaster package is reportedly being prepped in the House as chances for a new farm bill before the end of September fade.
A farm bill could be passed during Congress’ lame duck session following November elections. Don’t hold your breath, though – especially if Republicans hold the House and retake the Senate.
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