House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas defended the idea of extending the 2008 Farm Bill for one year over the weekend. He said the changes made for the 2012 Farm Bill are of such a magnitude that the orderly way to implement a new farm bill would be to pass a one-year extension. According to Lucas, “One more year of existing farm policy would provide for an orderly transition to the next farm bill.” As for House action on the extension – Lucas anticipates a limited amount of debate since the only change that can be made is moving the 2008 Farm Bill one year farther down the road and slight adjustments in funding levels to address the fifth year and what would be the sixth year of the farm bill’s livestock feed assistance. Lucas is hopeful the House can clear the measure on Wednesday. But the Chairman isn’t sold on using the extension as the basis for a conference with the Senate-passed bill – stating he is a regular order kind of guy. Without a guarantee of farm bill action later this year – House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson opposes the extension.
The farm bill extension the full House is scheduled to consider this week would make only a slight reduction in the out years in the direct payments program and make no changes to the food stamp program. Prospects for this extension and disaster aid package on the floor are not yet clear. But if the House does approve the extension – Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow says the Senate will reject it. Speaking over the weekend – Stabenow called it quite shocking that the House leadership was unwilling to bring a bill that came out of the committee on a bipartisan vote to the floor.
Ag Groups Not Too Excited with House Plan to Extend Farm Bill
It’s widely expected the U.S. House will consider a farm bill extension this week. The legislation would provide for a one-year extension of current law governing farm programs – including commodity programs, crop insurance, conservation programs and federal nutrition programs – as well as reauthorize supplemental agricultural disaster assistance for the 2012 fiscal year retroactively – and for the 2013 fiscal year. While farm groups want to see work on the farm bill completed before current law expires on September 30th – most have not responded positively to the decision of the House leadership to extend current law for one year.
The American Farm Bureau Federation said it would oppose a one-year extension of the 2008 Farm Bill because it fails to move the nation closer to securing a comprehensive, long-term farm bill. President Bob Stallman says an extension does nothing to offer farm and ranch families long-term policy certainty. Stallman points out that the Senate-passed farm bill and the measure approved by the House Agriculture Committee include disaster provisions for livestock farmers – which would likely be included in any conference committee held for the long-term legislation. He says the extension bill does nothing to help hog or poultry producers, does little to provide assistance to the dairy industry and does nothing to aid fruit and vegetable producers who may not have crop insurance available as a risk management tool. Stallman says the Agriculture Committee in the House and the full Senate produced reform-minded, bipartisan bills that address many of the core principles Farm Bureau believes are important. The group is encouraging House members and their leaders to recognize the example set by the Chairs and Ranking Members of the Agriculture Committees to forge fiscally responsible bipartisan legislation. Stallman says an extension falls well short of that target.
National Farmers Union only supports a one-year extension if the next step is to conference a comprehensive five-year farm bill before the September 30th expiration date. NFU President Roger Johnson says an extension that ignores the goal of a five-year bill merely kicks the can down the road and would necessitate starting the farm bill drafting process over in the new Congress in January. According to Johnson – the clock is ticking and this extension is wasting time that could be spent on passing a bipartisan, forward-looking bill before the September 30th deadline. He says House leadership needs to stop playing political games and show it values rural America by passing a farm bill now. Johnson notes the proposed one-year extension cuts the one title that had the most agreement among all parties – the conservation title. He adds that it cuts mandatory funding from vital beginning farmer and rancher, renewable energy and direct-to-consumer marketing programs.
Garry Niemeyer – National Corn Growers Association President – says America’s farmers need a new farm bill that will allow them the ability to make sound business decisions for the next five years. He says an extension of current law fails to provide the needed level of certainty – adding that NCGA advocates reforming programs into more efficient farm policy that will be responsive to taxpayers. According to Niemeyer – continuing outdated farm policies will negatively impact agriculture, the federal budget, consumers and the economy.
The American Soybean Association believes U.S. farmers and livestock producers need certainty in programs that help them manage risk in order to make decisions that will affect their operations over the long-term. ASA First Vice President Danny Murphy says that’s especially true as devastating drought conditions cover more than half of the country. He says a one-year extension of the 2008 Farm Bill combined with short-term disaster assistance to livestock producers won’t provide the certainty agriculture needs today. According to Murphy – a new five-year farm bill with long-term risk management and disaster assistance programs is needed. But ASA does support moving the farm bill process forward so that a conference can be convened when Congress returns from the August recess. Murphy says the group understands a one-year extension of the current farm bill may be all that can pass the House before it adjourns. He says ASA can support an extension if there are assurances that a new five-year bill can be negotiated in September.
National Association of Conservation Districts President Gene Schmidt called it shortsighted to sacrifice conservation programs that help mitigate the impacts of drought and other disasters in order to pay for disaster aid. According to Schmidt – long-term conservation planning is our best defense in protecting and preserving our natural resource base for the future. He suggested it is better to continue to invest in conservation now than to be forced to pay the escalated costs of repair down the road.
The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) issued the following statement expressing strong opposition to attempts by the House to extend a version of the current farm bill by one year and reiterating support for the inclusion of Dairy Security Act (DSA) in any final farm bill package: “The current safety net for dairy farmers is not sufficient in dealing with scenarios like we are currently facing from high feed costs associated with the ongoing drought,” said Jerry Kozak, President and CEO of NMPF. “If we are going to be serious about providing better protection for the nation’s dairy farmers while at the same time providing taxpayer savings from current programs, then we should pass a new farm bill which includes the DSA, which was included in both the Senate-passed farm bill and the farm bill recently passed out of the House Agriculture Committee. “Under the proposed extension, the Milk Income Loss Contract Program (MILC) would not pay out for the remainder of 2012 or for 2013 while the nation’s dairy farmers are experiencing razor-thin margins. The proposed 2008 farm bill extension does nothing to ensure dairy farmers and their bankers that they will have any safety net to deal with the present and future periods of tight margins and extreme volatility.
Source: NAFB News Sevice