Kristina Peterson reported yesterday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “A new five-year farm bill won’t be passed in Congress this year but could be ready in January, lawmakers said Tuesday.
“Winter storms kept an employee of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office away from Washington and unable to complete the key cost estimates lawmakers needed to continue their negotiations, chairmen of the House and Senate agriculture committees told reporters Tuesday.”
Ms. Peterson explained that, “Without cost estimates, negotiators said they wouldn’t be able to reach a deal with enough time to vote on legislation before the House adjourns for the year at the end of this week. Lawmakers said they still hoped to settle on a framework before the Senate leaves one week later, potentially setting up a vote in January on the first new farm bill since 2008.”
Kyle Potter reported yesterday at the Fargo Forum (N.D.) Online that, “After months of doubt, the top House Democrat in ongoing negotiations says lawmakers are a near a deal that would pave the way for passing a farm bill in the next month.
“Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, one of four House and Senate negotiators working behind the scenes on a compromise between the two chambers, said the framework of a farm bill deal could be finished before the House adjourns for the year on Friday, pushing a full vote sometime into January.
“Crucially, Peterson said the negotiators have agreed on how much to cut from food stamps – one of the largest sticking points between the House and Senate. Peterson declined to provide a number, but said the deal hews ‘substantially closer to the Senate’s’ targeted cuts of $4 billion over the next decade rather than the House’s bill, which would slash $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.”
Yesterday’s article noted that, “‘I think it will pass the Senate, but I cannot guarantee you it will pass the House,’ Peterson said in a meeting with the Forum’s Editorial Board Monday. ‘They are not going to be happy with the food stamp cuts.’
“Peterson said he’s confident he can secure ‘yes’ votes from at least half of the House Democrats – important if many Republicans, who control the House, balk at the smaller-than-expected food cuts to food stamps.”
The article added that, “But even as a deal emerges, a short-term extension may still be necessary to avoid skyrocketing milk prices that could come as dairy subsidies expire at the end of the year.”
Donnelle Eller reported on the front page of yesterday’s Des Moines Register that, “Economists expect Iowa corn and soybean growers will lose money over the next four years, beginning with this year’s harvest, squeezed by low commodity prices and high production costs.
“The potential downturn follows a boom that saw growers worldwide bringing millions more acres into production to take advantage of record-high prices.
“Experts in Iowa compare the downturn to the devastating 1980s farm crisis, the only time in at least 60 years that the state’s farm industry posted a loss. This correction is unlikely to be as severe, because farmers are coming off record-high net incomes. But enough similarities exist to cause concern.”
At his weekly news conference yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) indicated that, “On the farm bill, you know, I’ve not seen any real progress on the farm bill. And so if we’ve got to pass a one-month extension of the — of the farm bill, I think we’ll be prepared to do that.”
A reporter followed up by asking: “Would it be the entire farm bill or specific […off-mic…].
Speaker Boehner noted that, “I’ll let the chairman answer that question, but I think all of it probably ought to be extended for a month. Listen, I made it clear that the House is going to leave next Friday. And you all know me pretty well. I mean what I say, and I say what I mean.”
Russell Berman reported yesterday at The Hill Online that, “On the farm bill, Boehner was more pessimistic and raised the possibility of needing a one-month extension of current policy into next year.”
The update added that, “Without an extension, milk prices could spike after Jan. 1. Boehner said that he believes an extension should cover the entire farm bill and not just the dairy program.”
Ms. Jalonick added that, “White House spokesman Jay Carney reiterated Obama’s support for the Senate version of the bill Thursday, calling the House SNAP cuts ‘unconscionable’ and harmful to families across the country.
“‘The president has mentioned and made clear that there is an opportunity for bipartisan cooperation on a comprehensive farm bill,’ Carney said. ‘And he hopes and expects that that can be achieved before the end of the year.’”
U.S. Department of Agriculture Communications Director Matt Paul noted in a statement yesterday that, “Negotiations on Capitol Hill about the Farm Bill should continue until House and Senate leaders reach agreement on a comprehensive bill. Numerous members of both sides have indicated progress, and the country deserves continued work on this critical legislation.”
Meanwhile, Erik Wasson reported yesterday at The Hill’s On the Money Blog that, “House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) on Thursday said a deal on the farm bill is emerging, though nothing has been finalized.
“He said that while finishing the bill by the time the House recesses on Dec. 13 would be ‘Herculean,’ he does not yet want Congress to move to a one-month extension.
“‘As Sen. [Debbie] Stabenow [D-Mich.] says, nothing is ever done until all the parts are complete. Maybe Sen. Stabenow is right,’ Lucas said. ‘It would still be my hope that we could get all of our work done in time to not require an extension.’”
Mr. Wasson added that, “Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called for a stopgap farm measure on Thursday to avoid a spike in milk prices in early January.
“But Lucas said he believes the Agriculture Department would hold off on implementing the dairy policies if a farm bill is moving through Congress.”
The Hill update explained that, “The chairman said that he would be leaving for Oklahoma on Thursday afternoon, likely leaving any deal on the farm bill for next week.
“A House leadership aide said that the talks are moving too slowly to allow for a deal before the time the House leaves for its recess on Dec. 13, and that is why Boehner sees the need for an extension that avoids a milk price spike.”
Also yesterday, Niels Lesniewski reported at Roll Call Online that, “On the House floor, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said the House would be ready to consider ‘legislation pertaining to farm programs, including potentially a full farm bill conference report,’ if it becomes available.”
Reuters writer Charles Abbott reported yesterday that, “The House might vote next week to extend the now-expired 2008 farm law into January, ‘just enough for us to get our work done,’ said a House staff worker.”
Mr. Abbott noted that, “Farm-state lawmakers were optimistic about wrapping up the bill in short order, but not before the new year. A senior member of the House Agriculture Committee, Mike Conaway of Texas, said Republicans were ‘flexible’ in negotiations with the Senate while insisting on stricter food stamp rules.”
The Reuters article added that, “Conaway told the Farm Journal Forum, a farm policy meeting, that the final version of the farm bill will need work requirements for food stamp recipients: ‘something that says to continue to get food stamps you have to get back into the game’ by working or looking for a job.”
Erik Wasson reported yesterday at The Hill’s On the Money Blog that, “The main farm bill negotiators emerged from their first face-to-face meeting in nearly two weeks on Wednesday more optimistic they will reach an agreement.
“The hour-long meeting occurred as Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) took to the House floor to blame Senate Democrats for failing to agree to a farm bill deal.
“‘Staff are doing some work on specifics and scores and so on, but we are making great progress,’ said Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who flew into town despite the Senate recess to hold talks.”
On the House Floor today, Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) noted that the Senate was thwarting progress on the Farm Bill.
Speaker Boehner indicated that:
“The American people work hard, and they have a right to expect their elected representatives to do the same. House Republicans are listening. To date, the House has passed nearly 150 bills in this Congress that the United States Senate has failed to act on. Many of them would help our economy and boost job creation. Nearly 150 bills! These are bills to:
* Increase the supply of American energy & build the Keystone pipeline
* Roll back red tape & regulations
* Provide more flexibility to working families
* Reform & improve job training
* Protect Americans from cyber attacks
* Help schools recruit & keep the best teachers
* Delay the individual mandate, and let people keep their current health care plans.
* Or just scrap the health care law that is wreaking havoc on our economy.
“Every single one of these bills was blocked by Washington Democrats. The Senate and the President continue to stand in the way of the American people’s priorities. Now, we are trying to come to an agreement on the budget and the farm bill, among other issues. Chairman Ryan and Chairman Lucas have made serious, good-faith offers to Senate Democrats. When will they learn to say ‘yes’ to common ground” When will they start listening to the American people?”
House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) was a guest yesterday on the AgriTalk radio program with Mike Adams, where the conversation focused on the Farm Bill. An unofficial FarmPolicy.comtranscript of yesterday’s discussion is available here.
Chairman Lucas indicated that, “I think my colleague Chairwoman Stabenow said so, so I’ll repeat it again, we have another principals meeting tomorrow [Wednesday]—Senator Stabenow, Senator Cochran, Congressman and Ranking Member Peterson and myself. I look forward to see what the Senate will put on the table tomorrow. But we’re at the point in time where it should be possible to conclude this process.
“But as you and I have discussed many times, Mike, there are some very philosophical differences. The House perspective on how many dollars in the nutrition savings, reforms to have, the difference between the House and Senate perspective on what kind of a safety net we have in the commodity title.”
Ed O’Keefe reported in today’s Washington Post that, “House and Senate negotiators plan to meet again this week in hopes of finishing another complicated piece of legislation before a critical, fast-approaching deadline.
“In this case it is the farm bill, an omnibus measure that sets federal agricultural policy and spending on food aid.”
Janet Hook and Kristina Peterson reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “Congress is heading into the final stretch of its legislative session with a pile of year-end policy decisions before it and little time to address them.
“Lawmakers are struggling to negotiate deals on farm programs and food stamps, and on the budget for a fiscal year that began two months ago…[T]he window for joint congressional action is narrow. The House returns from Thanksgiving recess Monday, while the Senate reconvenes Dec. 9. If the House adjourns for the year as planned on Dec. 13, the two chambers will be in session simultaneously for only one week in December.”
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was a guest on Wednesday’s AgriTalk radio program with Mike Adams where the conversation focused on Farm Bill issues. An unofficial FarmPolicy.comtranscript of the conversation with Sec. Vilsack and Mike Adams is available here.
Sec. Vilsack pointed out that, “Well, I think we have to be realistic about this. If there is no appearance that there’s going to be a deal or if things break down and folks continue to be sort of in their corners and there isn’t a middle ground to be had, then obviously we’re going to have to start working towards and triggering permanent law.
“Some people have suggested that’s going to take a while to implement, but the reality is it’s not that we haven’t been thinking about this at USDA, we have been. We have a pretty good sense of what we would need to do. We’ve reached out to some of the folks, particularly in the dairy industry, to get their views about this. So we would be in a position, in short order—I don’t want to put a timeline on it—but in short order to get something done on the permanent law side.
“But boy, I tell you, that’s not something that I want to do, I’m reasonably certain that’s not anything that anybody in Congress would want to have happen, and I’m sure that no consumer is anxious to see that happen. So hopefully we continue to see progress.”
Sec. Vilsack also noted that, “It’s not just the permanent law issue, it’s also the Brazilian cotton issue, which is a trade dispute that we lost in the WTO, and there are consequences for inaction there. They can begin assessing retaliatory tariffs against many of our products, including exposing some of our intellectual property and destroying the protections that intellectual property has, which would be a first, frankly, in trade discussions, as I understand it.”
David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “Maybe it’s time to admit that whatever comes out of the great Farm Bill Wars in Congress will be — an experiment.
“Indeed, it’s a whole new world already compared to the last enacted bill in 2008, which passed by veto-proof margins and was helped along then by added money for nutrition and continued direct cash payments to farmers.
“This time the mandate is entirely different: requiring a major rewrite of the commodity title while also tackling food stamps — all in the name of reform and deficit reduction.”
“So why is it so hard?” Mr. Rogers asked, “One big reason is that everyone seems to have underestimated the challenge of replacing the current system of direct cash payments that’s been the backbone of the commodity title since 1996.”
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says that the farm bill – either passing or not – sends a message to the rest of the country about governing. He discusses the bill, Hillary Clinton and Gov. Chris Christie in this episode of Capital Download with Susan Page.
Mary Kay Thatcher, the Senior Director of Congressional Relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, was a guest on yesterday’s AgriTalk radio program with Mike Adams where the discussion focused on the Farm Bill. An unofficial FarmPolicy.comtranscript of yesterday’s discussion is available here.
Ms. Thatcher pointed out that, “I was hoping that we could have some good news to share this morning, but I think we’re going to continue to work at it. Staff’s up there working hard today, even though the members aren’t around, and the four principals are presumably still having some kind of conference call to further discuss it today. So we still have some hope that, indeed, by the end of the year or by the middle of January, when we have this budget bill, that we can have it done, but we aren’t there today, and I can’t even tell you exactly what progress has been made.”
In a related update, Erik Wasson reported yesterday at The Hill’s On the Money Blog that, “The top leaders of the House-Senate farm bill conference committee plan to hold a pivotal conference call on Monday.
“Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), the respective heads of the Senate and House Agriculture committees, and the committees’ ranking members Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) will join the negotiating session.
“The ‘big four’ leaders are still trying to hammer out a farm bill deal in order to move the $1 trillion agriculture subsidy, crop insurance and food stamp bill on the House and Senate floor in December.”
And, Mr. Wasson tweeted yesterday evening that, “Conf call by 4 #farmbill lead negotiators happened. Process continues w/ no resolution yet”