The general consensus is that the 2012 Farm Bill will not be completed to step in for the current bill that expires on Sept. 30. However, a bipartisan group of representatives are trying to ignite momentum in the House.
“Republicans and Democrats agree that getting the farm bill done is critical,” said Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D.
Noem and Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., initiated a letter and was joined by 62 other representatives to send the message to the House leadership that the proposed farm bill (H.R. 6083) should be brought to the floor for a vote before August.
Last week, the House Agriculture Committee passed its version of the Farm Bill by a 35-to-11 vote.
Signed by 38 Republicans and 24 Democrats, the representatives sent the letter to Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio; Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.; Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md. Noem expects the number of representatives supporting the letter to grow.
However, on Friday, next week’s House floor schedule was released and the farm bill is not listed. That spurred a response by U.S. House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn. “There is no excuse not to bring the farm bill to the floor. We’ve wasted the last two weeks on political messaging bills that are going nowhere. If the House Republican Leadership were serious about creating jobs and growing our economy they would bring up this bill. There is no good reason to put one of our nation’s economic bright spots, the rural economy, at risk,” Peterson said.
This now leaves only four legislative days to consider the bill before Congress adjourns for its August recess.
The Senate passed its version of a farm bill last month, but the House Agriculture Committee’s version differs in many ways from the Senate bill.
It is reported that the House leaders want to avoid having a bill fail there, and they don’t have the 218 votes needed to pass the bill. “We are working all the members to see what we can do to have a successful vote,” Noem said.
The bill faces opponents from both the left and right, she said. Critics on the left have assailed the Agriculture Committee’s bill for the cuts it makes to food stamp and other nutrition programs.
“Those cuts caused us to lose a lot of Democratic support,” Noem said. “And there are Republicans who don’t come from ag districts who look at the farm bill as farm welfare and don’t understand the importance of these programs.”
Especially critical in the face of the nation’s deepening drought is an expired livestock disaster program included in the current farm bill, Noem said, pointing out that she’s working to include retroactive livestock disaster payments in any new farm bill or a possible extension of the existing bill’s programs.
While the 2012 Farm Bill is not likely to meet the deadline, there is a growing consensus that the existing farm bill will be extended. While “that would be OK,” Noem said, a longer-term agriculture policy would be better.