WASHINGTON — The August recess is serving as a bit of political limbo for the farm bill this year. Reps. Collin Peterson and Tim Walz, two of Minnesota’s three Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee, took to Farmfest last week to try sorting out how it gets done when Congress returns to work in September.
Alex Ranallo recaps their appearance at a farm bill panel for the Twin Cities Daily Planet:
Peterson and Walz pointed to the relatively speedy and nonpartisan work of the House and Senate agricultural committees, as well as the ongoing support of both parties’ leadership; they made clear that the fault didn’t lie there. Instead, the blame was leveled squarely at Eric Cantor and his fellow right-wing Republicans, who broke with their party’s leadership and scuttled the deal that the agricultural committee had developed. Both representatives were quite pessimistic of the possibility of passing a Farm Bill in the remaining months of 2013; Representative Peterson suggested that a 2-year extension was the most likely outcome, followed by many questions about whether we would actually have a Farm Bill (as we know it today) ever again.
A reminder on how this whole thing developed: The House failed to pass a five-year farm bill in June, but passed an agriculture-only version in July. After the August recess, Republicans plan to try moving a food stamps bill with deep cuts to the program, with the hope of then forging a compromise with the Senate. Democrats (and, according to the Daily Planet, farmers at Farmfest) have roundly opposed splitting agriculture and nutrition policy into two bills.
Current federal agriculture policy expires on Sept. 30, which means there is very little time to hash out a deal acceptable to both sides, making a short-term extension like the one Peterson raised at Farmfest a possibility.
Devin Henry can be reached at email@example.com