Members of Congress are back in Washington, D.C., for a much-anticipated lame duck session, but, so far, no farm bill game plan has become apparent.
Before the elections, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who will remain in his position in the next Congress, said his chamber would “deal with” the farm bill during the lame duck. How and when are still hanging questions, as Congress prepares to leave town again for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Any decisions about the farm bill are certain to be dictated in part by the tight calendar, a weighty list of fiscal and tax issues that are seen as top priorities and larger political tides that have worked against the bill all year.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) has not made an official statement while waiting for his caucus’ leadership to decide on floor time, though he did tell Politico on Thursday that the farm bill remains part of Leadership’s “big picture.”
House Ag Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), whose party does not control the House schedule, has been vocal about the need to bring the farm bill to the floor immediately and his strong opposition to an extension of any length.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), whose chamber has already completed its farm bill work, issued a statement late last week saying bipartisan work to complete the farm bill would “create the trust and momentum we need to overcome gridlock and solve the challenges our country faces” and take a major step toward deficit reduction.
More than 200 agriculture, rural, conservation and energy groups, including NAWG, wrote top House leaders from both parties this week urging the bill be considered and completed as soon as possible.
“This legislation is of paramount importance to the diverse, bipartisan constituencies our organizations represent,” the groups said.
“Failure to pass a new five-year farm bill before the year’s end will create significant budget uncertainty for the entire agricultural sector, including the rural businesses and lenders whose livelihoods are dependent upon farmers’ and livestock producers’ economic viability.”
NAWG strongly supports immediate passage of the five-year farm bill pending before the House and a conference process that will bring the legislation to a conclusion before the end of 2012.
Members of both agriculture committees have invested significant time and effort to produce farm policy proposals offering significant reform and reductions in spending.
Ignoring this leadership and work at this point could have vast consequences on future farm bill budgets, the effectiveness of programs included in the farm bill and on the wider economy, particularly through ag export promotion programs that are currently not being funded due to the 2008 Farm Bill’s expiration.
NAWG encourages all farmers and other readers to contact Members of Congress and House Leadership to voice their support for farm bill action, and NAWG will keep state associations and grower-leaders informed of the latest developments.
The full letter sent this week is available at www.wheatworld.org/farmbill.