Last week it looked as though there was some movement toward a new Farm Bill in Congress. The House sent its Farm Bill to the Senate, and the Senate said it was ready to go conference. But as this week began with no further progress and with more political posturing. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said, on the House floor, that Republicans do not want to conference with the Senate on the Farm Bill until the House passes a nutrition bill, “It is our hope that we can get a nutrition bill to the floor.” He added that the GOP feels these programs are important but are in need of serious reform. House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer was furious about what he sees as another delay, “Three weeks ago you said we needed to pass a Farm Bill with no nutrition title as a way to get to conference. We did that, but there is still no move to go to conference with the Senate.”
Cantor responded that separating the Farm Bill and the nutrition bill was not about political expediency but rather about setting a new course for US Farm and Food policy, “We believe that the marriage of the two constituencies of the old Farm Bill that began 40 years ago makes little sense today.” There are just two four-day weeks left on the House calendar before Congress breaks for its long August recess. The House Ag Committee has two public hearings this week on the future of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission; and the full House is set to take up defense spending, coal reuse and consumer energy relief, but there is nothing scheduled for a nutrition bill or for a move to conference with the Senate on the Farm Bill. Meanwhile Senate leaders say they will have nothing to do with a Farm Bill that does not have a nutrition title.
All of this leads National Farmers Union Lobbyist Chandler Goule says it is unlikely there will be a new Farm Bill before the current extension expires, “I believe the Farm Bill conference will not happen until October which leaves us with another expired Farm Bill extension.” If Congress does not pass a new Farm Bill by the end of the year, permanent law of the 1930s will kick in.