After several intense weeks of negotiations and with just 10 days remaining in the year, there is no apparent plan to pass a new farm bill or an extension of current farm policy.
Separate negotiations on the fiscal cliff, the combination of tax increases and spending cuts set to hit in January, also appear to have stalled, with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) proceeding this week with what he’s calling “Plan B” in his chamber while President Barack Obama maintains Boehner has in hand a viable compromise.
The fiscal cliff tension has long been sucking the oxygen out of the room on the farm bill talks, to use the language of House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.). The possibilities for a long-term bill were all but snuffed out late Tuesday, when word came from Boehner that he did not believe he could achieve the necessary votes for a fiscal cliff deal if anything else is attached to the measure.
Late this week, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) sharply rejected the notion that there is no legislative vehicle for a farm bill to move before the end of the year.
She also threw support behind an agricultural disaster assistance amendment to a bill that would provide aid to victims of Superstorm Sandy. That is one of the few bills anticipated to move in either chamber before they recess.
Boehner’s Plan B legislation, which would extend expiring tax cuts for those making less than $1 million and address coming increases in the estate tax, was set to be voted on in the House late Thursday. However, it is widely considered a nonstarter in the Senate and Obama has said he will veto the measure if it comes to his desk.
It is almost certain both chambers will return next week to complete the Congressional session. Whether or how farm policy certainty will be addressed then is still unknown.
NAWG staff will continue to be in touch with Hill contacts and grower-leaders as news develops.