More than 30 senators signed a letter Thursday urging their colleagues to consider rolling the farm bill into a potential fiscal cliff package.
Led by Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and John Hoeven, R-N.D., the group of 33 senators stressed that their senate-passed farm bill provides $23 billion in deficit reduction "while making smart, common-sense reforms that ensure the farm safety net works for both the American taxpayer and the American agricultural producer."
The letter said that farmers' and ranchers' ability to plan was hindered without the passage of a 2012 Farm Bill.
"In order for our farmers and ranchers to plan for their future, it is imperative that we provide them the certainty of a full five-year farm bill," the Senators wrote. "Congress must do the responsible thing and pass a full, five year reform farm bill. Accordingly, we urge you to consider folding in the Senate’s strong bipartisan bill in any end-of-year package."
National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson also sent a letter Thursday to President Barack Obama, explaining the group's position on including the farm bill to avoid the cliff.
"The last farm bill has already expired, and severe impacts will be felt by farmers, consumers and agribusinesses in early 2013 if a new farm bill is not passed. The costs of a short-term extension of a farm bill will be high, and the legislative effort required to pass an extension is just as great as the work needed to pass a five-year farm bill," Johnson wrote.
Some say it's not a good idea
In a Dec. 10 blog entry, think tank American Enterprise Institute opposed a move to bring the farm bill and a fiscal cliff deal together.
AEI's Vince Smith and Environmental Working Group's Scott Faber, authors of the post, say any savings in the farm bill would be a "trivial contribution" to coping with the fiscal cliff.
"The time could not be better for reform," they wrote. "While nearly everything else in the House and Senate bills has been slashed in the name of deficit reduction, large commodity farmers will enjoy higher price guarantees and gold-plated insurance options. So it’s not surprising that some farm and congressional leaders want to sneak a secret farm bill through the lame-duck session."
Click here to read a copy of the Senator's letter.