David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “Leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees are slated to meet Tuesday morning amid signs that House Republicans may pull back from a one-year extension of farm programs and focus instead on the immediate needs of drought-stricken livestock producers.
“The extension — due on the House floor Wednesday — remains highly divisive even as there is broad support for new disaster aid to fill gaps in the current farm law for livestock and some specialty crops.
“No final decisions have been made. But Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, appears open to this approach, absent an agreement by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to allow House-Senate negotiations in August on the larger five-year farm plans favored by the two committees.”
Ron Hays of the Radio Oklahoma Network spoke with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) on Saturday about the latest Farm Bill developments in the House. A summary and audio replay of their discussion is available at The Oklahoma Farm Report Online. An unofficial FarmPolicy.com transcript of the Ron Hays interview with Chairman Lucas is available here.
Chairman Lucas stated that, “There are many pieces in this process going on simultaneously. I’m still working for floor time for the regular bipartisan farm bill that passed out of the House Agriculture Committee not many days ago.
“But at the same time, I’m working to bring a one year extension to the floor, hopefully next week, before we go home for the August work period, that would extend the existing farm bill forward by one year, it would make some very small cuts in the direct payment program, it would take some cuts that the appropriators have done annually through the rest of this farm bill to achieve savings so that the livestock disaster provisions, which in the ’08 Farm Bill weren’t funded in the fifth year, this year would be funded, and also funded for next year.
“So I’m trying, on a two-track front here, to provide certainty to producers who are dealing with the drought, yet try to get us a real five-year farm bill completed this year.”
On Thursday, Congressman Tim Walz (D., Minn.), a member of the House Agriculture Committee, called on House GOP leadership to stop dragging their feet and bring the Farm Bill to the House floor for a vote.
David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “The top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee signaled Thursday that he would support a Republican-backed one-year extension of the current farm law if it could be used as a vehicle to negotiate a larger comprehensive deal with the Senate.
“‘That seems to be gaining some ground on the Republican side right now,’ Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) told POLITICO. ‘That I would drop my opposition as long as this got us into conference on the big bill.’
“‘I’m against doing an extension but it’s OK if it gets us to a point of being able to conference a bill in August.’”
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D, Mich.) addressed Farm Bill related issues on the Senate floor today.
Her remarks included perspective on the possibility of the House passing a short-term extension and disaster aid, in lieu of voting on a new Farm Bill. The Senate passed a new version of the Farm Bill on June 21 while the House Agriculture Committee passed an updated bill on July 12.
Senator Stabenow’s remarks run about 10 minutes and can be heard here (MP3).
Tom Vilsack, U.S. Agriculture Secretary, talks with Bloomberg’s Stephanie Ruhle and Scarlet Fu about the impact of drought conditions on farmers and ranchers, the importance of Congress acting to provide assistance and coordinating with foreign leaders on supply concerns. He speaks on Bloomberg Television’s “Market Makers.”
The “Washington Insider” section of DTN reported yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, on Tuesday said GOP leaders are working with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R, Okla., and other panel members on the ongoing drought disaster gripping the majority of the nation. ‘We understand the emergency that exists in rural America. And we will address it as soon as possible,’ Boehner said.
“Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on Monday suggested drought aid was a possibility. McCarthy, who represents an agriculture-heavy district, said Congress could move legislation to help farmers stricken by the drought. ‘If there’s something because the drought is greater today that we have to take up in the process, we will try to deal with that even by itself,’ McCarthy said.”
The DTN item noted that, “Boehner last week said that crop insurance should be sufficient to cover farmers’ needs this year, but key disaster aid programs for livestock producers have expired. Also, language in USDA’s Fiscal Year 2012 budget bars the agency from providing aid through a program (Section 32) that the department has used in the past to aid livestock operations for weather-related losses.
“The pending House and Senate-passed farm bills include livestock disaster aid programs that would be retroactive to this year. Separate bills have been introduced in the Senate and the House regarding those programs, but they also include an extension of the controversial Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program (SURE) that would be another crop disaster aid program for crop producers who already have funding for crop and revenue assurance programs. The SURE program had a separate $100,000 pay cap when it was available. CBO in the past has projected SURE costs at around $1 billion per year. It was not part of the Senate-passed bill, nor the farm bill that passed the House Ag Committee.”
Yesterday’s Need-to-Know Daily Email from National Journal stated that, “The time left for a House vote on the farm bill is waning, and it’s becoming increasingly unlikely that there will be action on it until after the August recess. When asked whether leadership was keeping a tally on who supports and opposes the measure, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters he had ‘not whipped anything on it.’ Instead, he said, leadership is still in the process of ‘educating’ the caucus. Since the bill could cost almost $500 billion over five years, many Republicans will not vote for it, and McCarthy acknowledged that they still ‘have an uphill battle’ in getting it passed. ‘When we have the votes, we’ll move it,’ McCarthy said.”
Following the remarks from Rep. McCarthy, which had been described as a “somewhat confusing account of the exact status of the Farm Bill,” House Deputy Whip Rep. Tom Cole (R., Okla.) appeared yesterday on “The Daily Rundown” (MSNBC television) and discussed Farm Bill issues with host Chuck Todd. A portion of this discussion, in which Mr. Todd asked Rep. Cole about issues regarding a House floor vote, and comments made by Rep. McCarthy, can be heard here (MP3- 1:54).
Meanwhile, David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “Having blocked the pending five-year farm bill, House Republican leaders now appear to be racing ahead of their own Agriculture Committee to come up with some alternative to protect the party’s farm state candidates during the upcoming August recess.
“Disaster aid for livestock producers hard hit by the current drought was one option under discussion Tuesday, as well as a one-year extension of the current law due to expire Sept. 30.”
David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “To understand how far this Congress will go to kick the proverbial can down the road, consider the farm bill — yes, the farm bill.
“In the midst of a severe drought, the House Republican leaders are proposing to walk away from farm states and decades of precedent by not calling up the new five-year plan before the current law expires Sept. 30.
“Whatever its flaws, the bill promises $35 billion in 10-year savings from exactly the type of mandatory spending that Congress promised to tackle in last summer’s debt accord. But rather than disrupt its political messaging, the GOP would put it all at risk by delaying action until after the November elections.”