There aren’t enough votes in the House to pass the five-year Farm Bill approved this summer by the agriculture committee, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said last week, adding insult to injury by remarking there aren’t enough votes to approve even a short-term extension of current law.
The current Farm Bill expires on September 30. Boehner told the press on Sept. 20: “We have people who believe there is not enough reform in the Farm Bill that came out of committee and others who believe there’s too much in the bill that came out of committee. In our opinion we need 218 votes to pass either an extension or to consider the entire bill. When we get back, we will deal with the issue of the Farm Bill.”
Boehner announced earlier last week the House will recess Sept. 20 and will not return until November 13. Meanwhile, a formal discharge petition being circulated by Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) picked up 12 more supporters this week, bringing to 51 the number of House members signing on. However, in order to force Boehner to bring the bill to the floor, the petition must be signed by 218 members and House leadership has been active in dissuading members from signing the petition.
House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK) has been pushing the notion of a three-month extension of current law, but he’s opposed by his committee’s ranking member, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), as well as Senate agriculture leadership. Peterson pointed out a three-month extension is pointless because on Jan. 1, 2013, “permanent” farm law – the original 1949 “farm bill” – will kick in and several bizarre support formulas would trump current programs.
For instance, Peterson pointed out, dairy price supports would revert to a “parity” formula, translating to $38 a hundredweight or about four times the current federal support rate. The election outcome will dictate to some degree whether a full five-year bill is enacted, or whether the Congress opts to kick Farm Bill reauthorization into the next Congress through extension of current programs.
The last time a Farm Bill was allowed to expire was in 2007, when the 2002 Farm Bill lapsed for three months. Programs that must be funded, i.e. “mandatory” programs, and those solely authorized in the omnibus legislation are at greatest risk. While some USDA programs will cease on Oct. 1 or at the end of the 2012 crop year, i.e. when the first crop is harvested in 2013, most continue at until the end of 2012, including dairy supports and funding for mandatory conservation programs and several USDA nutrition programs. Trade, international food aid and rural development programs are mothballed once current law expires.