The scope of the cuts could be determined by modifications to the $1.2 trillion in cuts in federal spending that are due in early March, as well the budget baseline issued in March and federal debt ceiling. The House voted on Wednesday to delay until May 19 a decision on the debt limit.
With fiscal austerity on the horizon, the Senate passed a farm bill last year with budget cuts of $23 billion, half of them from crop subsidies. The House Agriculture Committee proposed $35 billion in cuts, half from food stamps, in its version. Some analysts expect larger cuts will be ordered this year.
An election-year deadlock prevented the House from voting on the farm bill, so Congress extended the now-expired 2008 farm law until September 30, 2013. The extension includes another round of the direct-payment subsidy, which costs about $5 billion a year and is made regardless of need.
Some farm groups have derided the failure to pass a new bill as layering uncertainty onto the agriculture sector.
However, "there doesn't seem to be much" demand for a bill in the countryside, said Peterson. "It's not on their radar. As long as they have crop insurance and prices are good, they can live with" the one-year extension of the 2008 law.
This is the first time Congress started work on a farm bill in one session and was forced to reintroduce it in the following session, congressional researchers say.