What is in this article?:
- House to vote on extension of current farm bill?
- Cards to play?
- A one-year extension of the current farm bill is being considered as a path toward not only passing a new farm bill but ensuring disaster relief reaches drought-struck farms and ranches.
- Nation’s prolonged, worsening drought, alongside House leadership’s aversion to farm bill debate in an election year, has softened opponents to the idea of an extension.
Cards to play?
It may indeed make sense, but on the way to a new farm bill, veteran southern farm leaders warn that Republican leadership may still play an unexpected card, or two.
“I’m still reluctant to say that an extension is the end game. It’s a chess match right now, an attempt to one-up each other,” says Jeffery Hall, associate director of national affairs for the Arkansas Farm Bureau. “I don’t see (an extension) being good for us. Farmers would lose baseline and take another cut on top. And there’s no guarantee that the (lawmakers) won’t do that.
“It’s dangerous when you consider the ones pushing for no action on the farm bill. When you have (Ohio Rep. John Boehner, House Speaker, and Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, Majority Leader) pushing for an extension, farmers must remember that they’re not the friend of farm programs anyway.”
While it is true that farmers in the South might love to have another year of direct payments there is also no guarantee that a straight extension would carry those payments into 2013.
“It wouldn’t surprise me at all if they took the direct payment funds and use those to pay for the (drought) disaster,” says Hall.
A kind of pay-go?
“That’s exactly right. The livestock disaster program is not paid for currently. It has expired. So, they could use the $5 billion in direct payments to pay for the livestock disaster. That would leave row crop producers out in the cold.”
Meanwhile, with some two-thirds of the nation in drought, farm groups continue to pressure Congress over a new farm bill. In a Thursday letter to Boehner, National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson said, “Further delay of long-term legislation will only present more challenges to passing a bill. Extension of the current legislation is merely a temporary fix, while a five-year farm bill would be a more responsible and viable solution for today and the coming years.
“Standing disaster programs that protect against low yields, price volatility and high input costs are needed so that farmers, especially livestock producers, can withstand these difficult times. These disaster programs need to be included as part of the long-term farm bill. In fact, most of these necessary provisions are already included in the Senate bill and in the House agriculture committee bill.”
Also on Thursday, Minnesota Rep. Tim Walz, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, pointed to a Politico report that “looked back 50 years, longer than I’ve been alive, and found that never before has a farm bill been this close to being passed and then blocked by House leadership.
“This is absolutely unacceptable. Southern Minnesotans can’t afford to deal with the uncertainty that follows out-of-date policy extension that follows lame duck session; lame for sure…
Time is running out, said Walz. “We have 17 days between now and November 6 to work here in Washington. That is so unacceptable, no one will agree to that. Pass the farm bill, pass it now.”