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Ag Leaders Seek Last Minute Farm Bill Extension

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With 2012 quickly coming to an end and no sign that Congress will pass a new Farm Bill, a bipartisan group of lawmakers is calling for a short term extension of the current Farm Bill in order to prevent disastrous consequences. Late Sunday evening, Senate Ag Committee chairman Debbie Stabenow released a statement saying there would be support for a short term extension of current farm policy and programs,  “If a new Farm Bill is not passed in the next few days, Agriculture Committee leaders in both chambers and both parties have developed a responsible short-term Farm Bill extension that not only stops milk prices from spiking, but also prevents eventual damage to our entire agriculture economy. It is critical that we pass a five-year Farm Bill that gives farmers and ranchers the certainty they need to plan for the future. If a new Farm Bill doesn’t pass this Congress we’ll soon hold another mark-up and just keep working until one is enacted next year.”

 

Expiration of those dairy programs could mean higher prices at the grocery store within a few weeks. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Americans face the prospect of paying $7 for a gallon of milk if the current dairy program lapsed and the government returned to a 1948 formula for calculating milk price supports. A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said Sunday afternoon that Republican leaders had not decided how they would proceed on the farm extension.

The prospect of the higher milk prices has motivated some action. The bipartisan extension also includes disaster assistance to farmers affected by a lingering drought this year, along with extensions to other farm programs that expired in October. Instead of just extending current dairy policy, the extension bill includes an overhaul of dairy programs that was in both the Senate and House committee bills. The new dairy programs include a new, voluntary insurance program for dairy producers. Those who choose that new program would also have to participate in a market stabilization program that could dictate production cuts when oversupply drives down prices — an idea that hasn’t gone over well with Boehner.

 

On Sunday, House Ag Committee chairman Frank Lucas said he hoped the extension would pass both chambers quickly as GOP leadership mulled their options,”It is not perfect, no compromise ever is, but it is my sincere hope that it will pass the House and Senate and be signed by the president by January 1.”



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