Fiscal cliff could motivate Congress to pass farm bill

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The need for Congress to agree on government spending cuts could spur action on the farm bill before the end of this year, according to an Associated Press article. The Senate passed their version of the bill in June, and the House Agriculture Committee followed with its version in July, but the bill never reached the House floor amid pre-election politics.

Now, however, as the government faces the possibility of dramatic spending cuts and tax increases automatically taking effect on January 1, Congressional leaders could be more motivated to move a compromise bill toward final passage. The Senate bill would reduce spending by $23 billion over 10 years while the House version would cut $35 billion.

Quoted in the AP article, Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) says an agreement leading to passage of a farm bill would be "a significant first step in meeting the critical deficit reduction challenges our country must face head-on this year."

Spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, represents a major point of contention between the two versions of the bill. The Senate bill would cut $4 billion from the program over 10 years while the House version would cut $16 billion.

In related news, the National Farmers Union and a broad coalition of 235 agriculture organizations sent a letter to Congressional leadership today urging for the passage of a new five-year farm bill to be signed into law by the end of the legislative session.

In a letter addressed to Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, the coalition noted the paramount importance of the legislation.

“Failure to pass a new five-year farm bill before the year’s end will create significant budget uncertainty for the entire agricultural sector, including the rural businesses and lenders whose livelihoods are dependent upon farmers’ and livestock producers’ economic viability,” the letter states.

Quoted in the AP article, NFU president Roger Johnson says the results of the Nov. 6 election, which kept the balance of power the same, should favor passage of a farm bill. “The outcome removed any sort of political rationale for a delay," he says. "The political argument I think is gone. Not to say it will be easy."



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