Farm Bill? What Farm Bill

House inaction as fiscal cliff looms indicates signs of a looming extension despite opposition to the idea.

Published on: Dec 19, 2012

A look around the Web, from Politico to Reuters shows that the likelihood of a new farm bill showing up on the President's doorstep is dimmer every day. This week House Speaker John Boehner continued to resist the idea of pushing a full-fledged farm bill to the floor.

That Politico report says Boehner can't include a farm bill as a "caboose" to any year-end legislation because he could lose more Republican votes.

Meanwhile, the White House and the Treasury Secretary appear to like the savings proposed in the farm bill. It's that nutrition title with cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program along with the House version and its new approach to dairy support that are snags in the process. Of course, those have been snags since the House version of the bill came out of committee months ago.

HARD AT WORK? Fiscal cliff pressures may keep a farm bill bottled up until the next Congress comes to town.
HARD AT WORK? Fiscal cliff pressures may keep a farm bill bottled up until the next Congress comes to town.

You can check out the Politico report on Boehner's reasons for kicking the the farm bill on to the next Congress. Remember, however, that Boehner has voted against the last few farm bills and has a long-held stance that these bills are market manipulators that shouldn't be passed.

There is a little "political chicken" being played by both sides of the aisle with one issue that arises after January 1: the return to 1949 support levels for dairy. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack has said he would "do what the law requires me to do" in recent appearances. That 1949 law would require USDA to pay $38.54 per hundredweight of milk versus the current $16-plus price today.

However, a mini-dairy extension to lock in current farm bill provisions could easily be slipped into the debt reduction bill that must pass before year end. While Collin Peterson, D-Minn., is opposed to any dairy extension - or any extension at all - he has said he can see that some kind of extension looks likely.

It looks like the holiday season will be ag-news-filled, at least from a farm bill standpoint - whether there is no bill, an extension or as Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., calls it a "Christmas miracle."

Stay tuned.