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.”
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.’”
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.”
The “Washington Insider” section of DTN reported on Friday (link requires subscription) that, “House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., this week again left the 2012 farm bill off a list of measures the House will consider this summer, leaving lawmakers and lobbyists with the impression that the legislation has little chance of coming up before the August recess.
“In a news release, Cantor said the House will take up tax-related legislation and a moratorium on new regulations in the two weeks before the recess. The House’s last day in session before the break is Aug. 3, with a return date of Sept. 10. And between that return date and the planned post-election lame duck session, the House will be in session just 13 days.
“Supporters of the bill say that failure to pass it before the August recess robs House and Senate negotiators of the chance to craft a compromise during the break and raises the likelihood Congress will have to extend the farm law beyond its Sept. 30 expiration.”
John Eligon reported in today’s New York Times that, “The drought that has settled over more than half of the continental United States this summer is the most widespread in more than half a century. And it is likely to grow worse.
“The latest outlook released by the National Weather Service on Thursday forecasts increasingly dry conditions [text, related graphics] over much of the nation’s breadbasket, a development that could lead to higher food prices and shipping costs as well as reduced revenues in areas that count on summer tourism.”
“‘It really is a crisis. I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like this in my lifetime,’ Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois said after touring ravaged farms in the southern part of the state.”
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) articulated concerns and highlighted issues regarding the U.S. drought and the 2012 Farm Bill on the Senate Floor today, a replay of her presentation can be heard here (MP3- 8:31).
“President Obama reviewed the situation with Tom Vilsack, the agriculture secretary, who called it ‘the most serious situation’ in about 25 years and added that he was praying for rain.
“‘I get on my knees every day, and I’m saying an extra prayer now,’ Mr. Vilsack told reporters at the White House after his discussions with Mr. Obama. ‘If I had a rain prayer or rain dance I could do, I would do it.’”
A recent National Weather Service (NWS) update for Northern Indiana stated that, “The hot and dry weather in June and July only intensified on-going drought conditions across the area. Moderate to extreme drought conditions are present across much of Northern Indiana, Southern Lower Michigan and Northwest Ohio, with drought conditions across most of the region, according to the latest Drought Monitor.”
More specifically, the NWS office in Indianapolis, Ind. has indicated that, “Severe to exceptional drought conditions existed in 80% of the state according to this week’s U.S. Drought Monitor while moderate drought conditions continued across the remainder of the state…[D]rought conditions in portions of central and southern Indiana were worse than the Dust Bowl Days of the 1930s. From June 1–July 12 much of central Indiana had received less rainfall and been nearly as hot as the summer of 1936.”
The NWS report added that, “The effects of the drought will have a large impact on Indiana agriculture. Late season crops, like corn and soybeans, may see their worst yields since the Great Drought of 1988…possibly even lower.”
And a NWS update for Grand Rapids, Mich. noted recently that, “Ongoing persistent dryness along with well above normal temperatures has led to steadily worsening drought conditions across the region. The outlook for the remainder of July indicates continued below normal rainfall and above normal temperatures. A continued warmer and drier than normal scenario will undoubtedly support a detrimental increase in regional drought severity. Extended drought conditions will lead to further water supply issues, such as record low stream flows and heavier strains on aquifers. Agricultural loss estimates will continue to mount. Crop yield estimates will likely diminish and livestock stress and losses will increase.”
A recent NWS statement for the Quad Cities region (Iowa, Illinois) noted that, “Moderate to severe drought conditions are worsening across much of the Midwest and Corn Belt including Central and Eastern Iowa…Southern Wisconsin…Almost all of Missouri…And all of Illinois.”
And this graphic illustration provided a look at extreme temperatures for parts of the Midwest from June 1 through July 7.
“Though agriculture is a small part of the U.S. economy, the shortfall comes as the nation struggles to regain its economic footing. Last week, the Agriculture Department declared more than 1,000 counties in 26 states as natural-disaster areas.
“About 55 percent of the continental United States is now designated as in moderate drought or worse, the largest percentage since December 1956, according to the National Climatic Data Center, and the outlook is grim.”
“Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) said Tuesday afternoon that fewer amendments than expected had been filed to the bill that represents a compromise between himself and ranking member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.).
“‘I have a lot of new underclassmen so they may have a hard time getting their work done ahead of time,’ he said.”
In part, Chairman Lucas indicated that, “Well, Mike, everything now, at this point, that adds to the schedule makes the farm bill process more complicated. I’m not surprised that the majority leader has announced that we will have a vote on repealing Obamacare. I think pretty much the issue is understood in the House and the lines are clearly drawn. The body that passed this when Speaker Pelosi was in charge is a body now under Speaker Boehner that will vote to repeal it…[i]t makes the farm bill process more complicated, but I’m not sure, Mike, you could have made the farm bill process any less complicated the way things have been going lately.”
In commenting on the Senate passed Farm Bill, Chairman Lucas pointed out that, “We will continue the effort at saving. They basically come up with $23 billion in savings, or cuts, however you want to describe it. We’ll have to achieve a bit more than that in the United States House, probably 30 some billion, but we’ll see how the numbers come together in the committee markup. We will have a form of their crop revenue assurance program, the shallow loss stuff. We may kick it in in a slightly different way. But in addition to that, we’ll have to have something that they don’t have, and that is give producers an option at some kind of a reference price proposal giving Southern plains and Southern crops, outside of, perhaps, what many people think of in the corn and bean area, a second choice in policy options to create them a safety net.”
Sarah Gonzalez reported yesterday at Agri-Pulse Online that, “The House Agriculture Appropriations bill is unlikely to hit the floor until after the House Agriculture Committee’s markup of farm bill legislation beginning on July 11, said House Agriculture Chairman Committee Frank Lucas, R-Okla., today.
“‘I’ve made it very clear to leadership that I prefer they not have it at the same time,’ he said. ‘As of this moment, I don’t anticipate having ag appropriations in the House at same time as the farm bill markup in the committee.’
“The agriculture appropriations bill, passed through the House Appropriations Committee two weeks ago and initially expected to be debated on the floor this week, is slated for some time after the chamber completes its consideration of the transportation bill.”
Erik Wasson reported yesterday morning at The Hill’s On the Money Blog that, “The Senate will take up 73 amendments to the 2013 farm bill, but none will address the objections that rice and peanut farmers have to subsidy cuts in the legislation.
“Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) last week devised an amendment to restore optional target price-based supports favored by rice and peanut growers that were eliminated by the draft bill.”
Mr. Wasson stated that, “Conrad decided to stop pushing for the amendment after talking with Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).
“‘After speaking with Sen. Stabenow, Sen. Conrad determined the best strategy would be to withhold the amendment and pursue improvements in conference committee negotiations,’ a Democratic aide said.”
Meredith Shiner reported last night at Roll Call Online that, “Senate negotiators stuck a massive amendment deal on the pending farm bill tonight, working through contentious battles on the floor, in the cloakroom and in Capitol corridors to inch closer to potential passage.
“Although final Senate approval is far from guaranteed, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced a 73-amendment agreement just before 8:30 p.m. [related FarmPolicyaudio here (MP3- 5:00)], hours after Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and ranking member Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) could be seen and heard wrangling with rank-and-file Members in the chamber.
“The amendment package, which was agreed to by unanimous consent, includes measures both germane and nongermane to the bill. But it wasn’t secured easily.”
The Need-To-Know Memo (Email update from National Journal) stated yesterday that, “Backers hope early this week to nail down a deal on amendments that will allow passage of a farm bill by Friday. Lack of an agreement could endanger the bill and it is unclear if the Senate Agriculture Committee’s ranking member, Pat Roberts, R-Kans., can convince his GOP conference members to accept a limited number of non-germane amendments that Democrats will accept. Opposition from southern Republicans is also a hurdle.”
Pete Kasperowicz reported yesterday at The Hill’s Floor Action Blog that, “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Monday that Republicans are once again forcing the Senate to move at a snail’s pace to pass legislation that creates jobs, which he said shows their ongoing effort to hurt President Obama.
“‘It’s a shame that we have now wasted 30 hours post-cloture on this bill,’ Reid said on the Senate floor. ‘It’s a bill that passed by 90 senators agreeing we should move for debate on this bill.’
“‘Republicans have made a decision that they would rather do anything they can to stop jobs from being created, hoping it will help them with the elections come November,’ Reid charged. ‘Too often in this Congress, the Republican strategy has been to kill job-creating bills in the hopes of harming the economy and hurting President Obama.’”
(A portion of Senator Reid’s comments from yesterday can be heard here- FarmPolicy audio (MP3- 2:13)).
Yesterday’s update added that, “Reid said he is continuing to work with senators on a deal outlining which amendments to the farm bill could come up for a vote.”
The Associated Press reported yesterday that, “A five-year farm and food bill that would revamp the federal safety net for farmers and eliminate direct government payments for idle crop fields took its first step toward passage Thursday in the Senate.
“A 90-8 vote to officially begin debate opens the way for what could be several weeks of attempts to amend proposed legislation that spends some $100 billion a year on crop insurance, conservation and nutrition programs.”
The AP article added that, “The House Agriculture Committee is expected to write a farm bill more sympathetic to southern growers, who want to keep aspects of the existing system where farmers are paid when prices dip below certain target levels. House Republicans also say that more savings can be squeezed out of the food stamp program.”