House May Take Up Farm Bill Extension
The House of Representatives may at long last take up a farm bill this week - but not the farm bill already approved by the Senate or even by a committee of the House.
The Associated Press reported that the House may consider a one year extension of the farm bill passed in 2008, and which is due to expire in September. The one year extension would also include aid for farmers hit by drought.
(Read the entire AP article, by way of the Washington Post, here.)
However, it's not clear whether there are enough votes to even pass an extension. The top Democrat on the House agriculture committee, Collin Peterson, told the Red River Farm Network that there aren't enough votes to pass an extension.
“I was finally reached out to on Saturday by some of the leadership; I explained my position that we need to get this (five-year) bill done”, said Peterson.
“It’s just mystifying to me why these guys can’t take yes for an answer. We got a bipartisan bill, we’re doing things the way we’re supposed to do it and then they come up with this extension which they never even talked to us about.”
(Read the Red River Farm Network story here.)
The five year farm bill that passed the Senate and the House agriculture committee with both Republican and Democratic support substantially changed the government's relationship with farmers - most importantly, it eliminates direct payments.
But food stamps are a stumbling block - some Republicans say the cuts are too small, some Democrats say the cuts are too large, and so both groups could vote against the new farm bill. Plus, there are subtle geographic issues involving what kind of farms come out better, and which come out worse, in the bill.
And then there are politics to consider. Even though Republicans and Democrats together supported the new farm bill in the House agriculture committee, there is enough opposition from the most conservative Republicans that the Republican leadership in the House would need the vote of Democrats to get the bill passed.
"To not bring the bill to the floor because you don't want Democratic votes to pass something seems to me to be virtually un-American and certainly not in the best interest of our constituents," said Bill Owens, a Democrat, who represents the north country.
His challenger, Republican Matt Doheny, said he would support a one year extension along the lines House Republicans are considering.
"If I was in Congress, I would vote for the continuation for the one year period," Doheny said.
If some version of the farm bill isn't acted on this week, it will be hard to have anything in place when the current farm bill expires September 30. That's because the House is scheduled to take its summer break at the end of the week.