House GOP leadership continues to swear it will take up a “tweaked” five-year Farm Bill when it returns for the post-election lame duck session, but the fiscal cliff and Hurricane Sandy may push reauthorization of farm programs further down the legislative agenda. The number one item for the lame duck session is ensuring there’s no headlong rush over the fiscal cliff with its expiring tax cuts and January, 2013, mandatory budget cuts, the mere presence of which the U.S. business community says is dragging down the economy.
House and Senate ag veterans said this week some form of farm program action will be taken, but Sen. Charles Grassley (R, IA) was the most cynical, saying if President Obama is reelected, it will likely be a five-year bill; if Gov. Mitt Romney wins, it would more than likely be a five-month extension of 2008 programs so the new administration can puts its mark on the new programs.
Sen. Pat Roberts told a Kansas audience this week he sees quick action on the Farm Bill – “we will get it done” – but the biggest stumbling block is federal food stamp program costs. The Senate-passed Farm Bill cuts $4 billion out of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the new title for food stamps, while the House cuts $16 billion, mostly through reinvention of management and state authorities.
However, others contend there’s still no agreement among producer groups on farm program reauthorization – the House committee bill includes marketing loans and deficiency payments, the Senate bill does not – so a “quick” resolution of the Farm Bill may be elusive.