WASHINGTON — Rep. Collin Peterson doesn’t think Congress will be able to pass a new farm bill before the end of the year.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that is it’s dead for this session,” Peterson told Politico, which gave a bleak outlook for the immediate future of a five year, $500 billion bill that sets federal farm and food stamp policy. Without a long-term bill, farm bill supporters said they are looking to pass some short-term extension to give Congress time to act next session.
The basic question for stakeholders has been how to pass the cumbersome farm bill before the end of the year. Attaching it (with savings between $24 billion and $35 billion) to a deficit reduction package is unlikely because the bill’s size might doom the whole thing.
“We can’t drop a farm bill in the middle of whatever is negotiated. A 1,000-page bill on top of whatever is negotiated will just make our vote situation harder,” a Boehner aide told POLITICO. “If we can agree on a top-line number, we suspect the committees will have a much easier time getting to a bill next year under regular order.”
This rankles farm bill supporters, since it was Boehner who blocked the House Agriculture Committee from even bringing its five-year plan – which was 594 pages, not 1,000 — to the House floor before the election. And Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) is still rooting for a “Christmas miracle” …
What will ring now is a holiday season fight now over a threatened spike in milk prices when the current dairy program expires Jan. 1.
Indeed, if a deficit deal is reached with the White House, the best hope for farm bill supporters may be to have the Ag Committees included in an expedited deficit reduction and tax reform package to be completed next summer. This path has not been ruled out by Boehner and would likely set an August deadline for action.
If current law expires on Jan. 1, a decades-old law kicks in, forcing the government to buy dairy products at a price more than twice as high as it is today, which would drive up dairy prices for consumers.
Peterson has authored a bill meant to stabilize dairy prices, and he told Politico he couldn’t support any short-term farm bill extension unless it’s included.
“I told the White House that if the dairy bill is not in, I will oppose the debt deal,” Peterson told Politico. “I think I have 40 to 50 people who will follow me on that. I basically told the White House that you’d better be careful.”
Devin Henry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org