There are only three legislative days before Congressional members leave for their August recess until September 10. As this week progressed, it appears there is growing support for a one-year extension of the 2008 Farm Bill including disaster provisions for livestock producers.
The drought is deteriorating crops but crop producers will find relief from crop insurance payments. Livestock producers are far less fortunate, especially as many livestock disaster provisions expired at the end of 2011 and are not currently in effect.
House Republicans do not have party line support for a five-year farm bill, which has made leaders reluctant to bring it to the floor for a vote. In his weekly press conference Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he believed the House would address the livestock disaster situation before going home in August and a vote may come as early as Wednesday.
House Agriculture Committee chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and his Republican colleagues met July 25 with the goal to chart a way forward with House leaders on the Farm Bill and other legislation aimed at addressing the record drought.
Thursday a spokeswoman for Lucas said, “There are a variety of considerations regarding the path forward for the farm bill. And, there’s concern about the impact of the drought and the best way to address it, but no decisions have been made at present.”
In a media call Wednesday Senate Agriculture Committee chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said an extension doesn’t need to be in place until the end of September, and that’s the same time frame as the farm bill, so Congress should just go ahead and pass the full farm bill.
The Senate’s bill and the House Ag Committee’s bill both include major livestock disaster programs and allow them to pay retroactively in 2012.
Many members, including Stabenow, said an extension continues direct payments and offers no reform.
House and Senate ag committee leaders met Tuesday evening to discuss the process of moving forward. She said the ideal path would before the House to pass a farm bill and send it to a conference to negotiate. “It is possible for them to send other signals to us or other things that would allow us to move forward,” she told reporters.
It appears House Ag Committee ranking member Collin Peterson and Stabenow may be supportive of using the one-year extension with disaster provisions included as a way to negotiate the farm bill during August.
But as Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack noted, if legislators continue to kick the can down the road on a new farm bill, issues will arise, especially if it isn’t handled until after the elections. Legislators likely will deal with tax cuts and ways to prevent deep defense spending cuts. Vilsack warned that someone will need extra savings and agriculture runs the risk of having to give more than its fair share.
“Instead of a band aid approach of getting the disaster assistance through the process, why not get a coalition together to finish the job and get it done before the August recess?” Vilsack stated.