Stopgap farm bill passes House, extends current law to January

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The U.S. House of Representatives passed a stopgap farm measure on Thursday to avert a potential doubling in dairy prices next month while lawmakers wrap up a new farm bill that cuts food stamps for the poor and expands subsidized crop insurance.

Lawmakers passed the bill, which extends current law until Jan. 31, on a voice vote and sent it to the Senate, where the Democratic leaders oppose it and chances of passage are low.

The four top farm bill negotiators hope to agree soon on a framework for the new law so it can be passed when Congress returns to work in the new year.

"Pass the extension ... and we on the Agriculture Committee will take care of our business in January," said Frank Lucas of Oklahoma, the committee chairman. He said House and Senate negotiators were making "incredible" progress on a compromise bill.

Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, says a sizable number of senators oppose the extension because it may trigger $5 billion in "direct payment" subsidies to growers. The new farm bill would end those subsidies.

In addition, Democrats argue the "dairy cliff" - an explosion in dairy prices caused by an underlying 1949 law - is a fiction.

"It's not necessary," said Rep. Jim Costa, California Democrat, in opposing the extension. Costa and Lucas were the only lawmakers to speak during the House debate.

Congress is more than a year late in replacing the 2008 farm law, which expired in fall 2012 but was extended until Sept. 30. Dairy subsidies will revert on Dec. 31 to terms of an underlying 1949 law that would double the price of milk in grocery stores.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters on Wednesday that "it is unlikely we would have that (price increase) in place" during January. It was the second time he ruled out an immediate price increase.

All the same, Lucas said the temporary extension was a prudent step that would end "panic" at the possibility of $8 a gallon milk.

"We are making significant progress in our negotiations with the Senate," said Lucas. "I'm confident we will complete the conference report in January."

The major issue for the farm bill is the size of cuts in food stamps for the poor.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor spearheaded the House call to cut $40 billion over 10 years with tighter eligibility rules that would disqualify up to 10 percent of food stamp recipients. The Senate voted for $4.5 billion in cuts by closing a loophole on utility costs.

Enrollment in food stamps has doubled and the cost of the program nearly tripled since 2004.

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pa  |  December, 13, 2013 at 08:53 AM

As a struggling dairy farmer, I would love to see the price of milk go to $8....I might be able to cover my expenses that's time the government gives us a price for our product that includes the cost of production. More and more dairy farmer's are selling out in the state of PA, once the land is lost it is lost forever..I hope our elected officials take this is to account with the farm far as the food stamp program, I feel with the food stamp program and all programs through the government, anybody that is receiving help, should have to pass a supervised unannounced drug screening, if they don't pass they don't get any help. This would cut down on the number of people receiving free help, and it would cut down on the drug problem in our country.. We have posted an add for "help wanted" and can't get anybody to work, because it's easier to collect a government check, than to work for it

TN  |  December, 13, 2013 at 10:08 AM

As a skeptical and struggling dairy farmer I know that OUR price for milk will not increase. as always the processors will reap the benefits, since they claim that their expenses are so great. Reality check-passing the farm bill is not going to change anything in my mailbox. Agreeing with Tina on the foodstamps though and sorry no one has called about your job it's because they have to use one hand to hold their pants up.

West Palm Beach FL  |  December, 13, 2013 at 10:24 AM

Can anyone explain to me how a very well dressed person steps out of their 2012 Lexus with 2 young children and proceeds into the Market Basket Supermarket to shop for the finest of everything; Live Lobsters, Filet Mignon, large fruit basket, King Crab Legs, and on, and on. She approaches the register with the two youngsters carrying assorted Candy bar packages and Pastry. When the Cashier rings up the purchase, the woman whips out her "SNAP" FREE FOOD CREDIT CARD and pays for the purchase with MY (taxpayers) Money! As they leave the store, one of the youngsters drops her Cellphone and Mom tells her to be careful or she won't get ANOTHER FREE PHONE. They have the clerk load their goodies in the trunk of the Lexus and Off they go!!!! Is there something wrong with this picture?

Craig Thomas    
Michigan  |  December, 13, 2013 at 12:18 PM

Twice the article states "food stamps for the poor." What a misnomer! Over half the time someone pays with food stamps in the grocery line in front of me they are morbidly obese and drive a late model car. If you want to see really "poor" people go to the Philippines or India as I have. At least half of the current food stamp recipients need to go on a crash diet!

December, 13, 2013 at 10:27 PM

I had a woman check out in front of me at a grocery store all dressed up, fake nails, hair all done up,and a cart full of nonsense like candy bars that I can't afford. I'm a dairy farmer. And then I see a SNAP card. She probably has a few kids, living off the system, with a sugar daddy at home. It just isn't right.

pa  |  December, 15, 2013 at 04:43 PM

What we as dairy farmers need to do is form a true coop and completely eliminate the middle man. Why do we even need land o lake or any one else? It's been done with other foods why not our milk? Let the middle men starve off.

Neb  |  December, 15, 2013 at 07:43 PM

Get the spoiled brats in government out of our farms as much as possible. The corporate farms and food stamp recipients are siphoning the benefits that are suppose to go to the average farm.

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