It’s crunch time for Washington lawmakers as the deadline to pass a five-year farm bill by the end of the year quickly nears.
As one congressional aide said to The Hill, this week is "pivotal.”
Passing the farm bill at this point will likely require it to be part of the fiscal cliff deal, but first the legislative agricultural committees must hammer out their differences on two major issues facing the farm bill – food stamps and commodity subsidies.
Despite the limited time period, many are hopeful that the pressure to get the farm bill passed in the lame-duck session will push both sides to compromise.
“Clock is ticking. We don’t have the much time left,” one source told The Hill.
If all efforts to pass a farm bill fail, House leaders are expected to try to pass a simple extension of the 2008 Farm Bill or extend dairy and livestock programs. However, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., has promised to fight a limited extension. Read more from The Hill.
Negotiators from both the House and Senate have placed blame on each other for the impasse, according to a Reuters report available here.
The 2008 Farm Bill expired on Sept. 30, and the delay in Congressional action has stirred uncertainty among farmers and ranchers who continue to battle high feed costs, drought and other crucial issues. In California, 100 dairies are expected to close this year, and a hotline has been set up to help the state’s dairy farmers deal with the stresses attributed to this year’s struggles.
Farm bill progress is painfully close for producers. In late October, at the annual meeting of the National Milk Producers Federation, NMPF CEO Jerry Kozak used a football analogy:
“...we’re not just in the red zone, we’re first and goal,” Kozak said during the meeting. “But great field position, even with the momentum that comes with a long drive, is not the same thing as putting points on the board. All our hard work, all of our compromises and meticulous planning ― none of it matters unless we can finish the job.”
As Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said in a recent commentary, the aftermath of Congress failing to agree on the farm bill will stretch far beyond agriculture and “slice” through rural America.
“If Congress doesn't act by the end of the year, automatic, across-the-board government cuts will kick in, affecting more than 1,000 federal programs, many of which will impact agriculture,” he wrote. For example, all commodity and many conservation programs would be cut by 7.6 percent next year. And agricultural research, Extension activities, food safety and rural economic development programs are just a few others that would be cut by 8.2 percent in 2013. Crop insurance would survive the first year, but would likely face cuts in year two.”