Late Friday evening, the US House released language that would extend the Farm Bill for 1 year. According to a document published on the House web site, the measure would, “Extend all titles and programs to the end of 2013, with the major change providing drought assistance to livestock and elimination of direct payments to cover the emergency assistance.” It is unclear if this is seeking an actual extension or providing a vehicle for a Senate-House Farm Bill conference.
Meanwhile, farm groups continue to press for action on the Farm Bill. On Friday, the National Corn Growers Association released a statement calling on the House to take action, “America’s farmers need a new farm bill that will allow them the ability to make sound business decisions for the next five years. An extension of current law fails to provide the needed level of certainty. The National Corn Growers Association has strongly advocated programs, such as direct payments, be reformed into more efficient farm policy that will be responsive to taxpayers.”
How the House will proceed with an extension remains unclear. House leaders need to determine what kind of rule on amendments will govern debate. The Republican leadership in the House has generally pursued a policy of open rules — at least when talking about the House Agriculture Committee’s Farm Bill. Ranking Member Collin Peterson said he was hopeful the Rules Committee would agree to a modified open rule, limiting the number of amendments. Another option is a closed rule which would not allow for amendments.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow expressed that she was open to the House approach, if they intend to send a bill that will be used to negotiate the Farm Bill during August. But, she says a short-term extension is bad for farmers and the agricultural economy. If Congress kicks the can down the road with a short-term extension, Stabenow noted there will be no reform, direct payments will continue, we will lose the opportunity for major deficit reduction and deliver a real blow to the nation’s economic recovery. At the end of the day, she says it’s important to give farmers certainty with a full Farm Bill and keeping the ag economy growing.