Milk, grocery prices on the rise if Congress ignores farm bill
But even if Boehner does decide to slip farm legislation into the "fiscal cliff" package, no single bill exists right now for the agriculture committees to offer: The House farm bill, approved by Lucas' committee in July, never made it through the GOP-controlled chamber, due primarily to disagreements over how deeply to cut food stamps. The Democratic-controlled Senate passed its version - the "Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012" - in June.
It's a turf battle as much as a spending-cut war. Peanut and rice farmers back the House version, which proposes $35 billion in spending cuts, and replaces the current agriculture subsidy program with what is essentially a safety net, guaranteeing government payments if crop prices fall below a certain point; corn and soy farmers prefer the Senate bill, which proposes $23 billion in spending, and offers insurance when revenue from a crop is more than 11 percent below average.
One thing both chambers, and parties, agree on: Extending the 2008 law shouldn't be an option. Between having to scramble for additional funding for already-expired programs and extending payment for disaster assistance, which was significant this year following a prolonged Midwest drought, any temporary measure would cost more than a full five-year bill, without offering any spending cuts. But while Lucas, according to House Agriculture Committee spokesperson Tamara Hinton, remains devoted to getting a five-year bill through the hoops of Congress, he is "planning for all contingencies." That could include a one-year extension.
Still, the chance for any form of farm legislation to be included in rush negotiations to avoid tumbling into a recession at the start of the year, as Vilsack said, has faded, along with the likelihood of a big-picture "fiscal cliff" deal at all. Cornell University professor of agricultural economics Andrew Novakovic told CBSNews.com that Stabenow's commitment to a five-year bill may be disconnected from reality.
"Needless to say, I have no idea what sweet nothings the President and the Speaker whisper to each other, or what the Republican conference is really prepared to support, but I have to say that it seems to me that Senator Stabenow has had her rose colored glasses firmly in place for several months now," he said in an e-mail. "Far be it from me to suggest I know more about it than she does, but it seems to me that it's pretty hard for folks on the Senate side to do much more than watch.
"I know there are several scenarios floating about out there, but I wouldn't bet money on any of them (i.e., I think any number of things are about equally probable)," he continued. "Like most folks, I find it plausible that a farm bill gets attached to some last minute fiscal cliff solution, but it also seems that the kumbaya between the two Ag Committees has suffered lately, as [the Congressional Budget Office] is saying you can't have all of the above. ...From the outside anyway, it has become less clear what farm bill would get tacked on to a broader fiscal bill."
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