Two fallbacks if extension falters
House Republican leaders readied two alternatives, if needed, to the one-year extension. One was a one-month extension of the now-expired 2008 farm law without disaster funds or the new dairy program and the other was a one-month suspension of the dairy provisions of the 1949 law.
It was not clear which bill would be called for debate, a farm lobbyist said on Sunday. A small-farm activist said any package passed by Congress must include rural economic development funds and money for soil conservation on "working lands," the largest of USDA's conservation programs.
"If a new farm bill doesn't pass this Congress, we'll soon hold another mark-up and just keep working until one is enacted next year," said Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat.
It would be the first time on record that Congress began drafting a farm bill during a two-year session and had to carry it into the following session, congressional researchers. Hearings on the new farm bill began April 21, 2010.
Big House, Senate dispute on big cuts
While dairy producers generally support the so-called margin-protection program as the answer to high feed costs, processors and foodmakers oppose it. They say it is wrong-minded in its premise of curtailing production when prices are low, and it will destroy a healthy export market for dairy products.
The rejuvenated disaster programs would cover losses from this year's widespread drought, especially for livestock producers, although tree farmers, honey bees and farm-raised fish are also covered. Maximum payment would be $100,000.
Senators passed a farm bill in June estimated to save $23 billion over 10 years, with most of the cuts in crop subsidies and conservation programs. The House Agriculture Committee approved a bill with $35 billion in cuts in July, half of it in food stamps for the poor -- the biggest cut in food stamps in a generation.
Fiscally conservative House Republicans have called for larger cuts in farm subsidies and food stamps while some House Democrats opposed food stamps cuts at all.
(Additional reporting by Charles Abbott; Editing by Ros Krasny, Maureen Bavdek and Jan Paschal)
Also, see “Agricultural committees agree to farm bill extension” from National Public Radio and The Associated Press..