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Confusion reigns as Congress tries to move farm bill

WASHINGTON — Collin Peterson said he opposes the House plan to extend current programs for a year, unless it’s used as a vehicle for forging a long-term bill.

Confusion reigns as Congress tries to move farm bill
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Rep. Collin Peterson
REUTERSRep. Collin Peterson

Even if the House’s one-year bill stumbles this week, lawmakers seem to generally agree to pass an emergency disaster relief bill to help areas struggling with drought conditions. House Speaker John Boehner backed such a plan last week, and Peterson said he could support a stand-alone disaster aid bill, provided it’s paid for.

“I would think as long as they can get something settled, I think an extension would probably be OK,” Mages said. But, “we prefer to see the [long-term] farm bill done this year because … it’s always good to know what the policy would be for the next five years.”

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Even if Mages and the corn growers are ambivalent, major national lobbying groups have slammed the House’s one-year plan. Two groups, the American Farmland Trust and the American Farm Bureau Association, came out against the plan within hours of each other Monday morning.

No bipartisan work done

The House Rules Committee is scheduled to take up the one-year bill on Tuesday, setting up a potential vote in the full House later in the week.

Peterson said he has no idea if Republicans have the votes to pass the bill, and he wouldn’t commit to getting the necessary Democratic support unless there is a conference committee agreement. 

Breaking from the traditionally bipartisan spirit of the Agriculture Committee, Peterson said Republicans didn’t consult him before introducing the one-year extension on Friday afternoon. That’s to blame for the confusion over the path forward, he said.  

“It’s not a good situation. This is what happens when you don’t work together.”