The reports of the farm bill’s demise in the House of Representative could be premature.
Vowing that the Senate would not pass another temporary farm bill extension, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said on the Senate floor June 24 that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, “should dispense with the drama and the delay and take up the Senate farm bill now.” Reid said the House farm bill voted down June 20 is “mean-spirited,” slamming the bill’s $20 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps). It was the first defeat of the farm bill since it was created in the 1930s, he said. The Senate passed its version June 10.
The current farm bill extension, put in place last year, expires Sept. 30. Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C., said the period through mid-July will be critical in determing its outcome.
If the House fails to find common ground, he said Congress could attempt to extend the current farm bill by more than one year.
“I think it will be a multi-year extension so it gets you past the election in 2014,” he said.
Dale Moore, spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based American Farm Bureau Federation, said there is no indication on plans for the bill from the House leadership. Even so, Moore believes a farm bill in 2013 is likely.
“We are still confident that there is going to be a new farm bill done this year,” he said.
One factor in favor of passing a new farm bill are reforms to programs that will cut the deficit.
“Another one year extension does not provide certainty to farmers, particularly if they are looking at longer-term decision making,” he said. “We need to get a farm bill done so farmers will have that five-year certainty.”
Disaster provisions for specialty crop and livestock producers without crop insurance have been expired since September 2011 and a new farm bill is needed to reauthorize them, Moore said.
Nancy Foster, president of the U.S. Apple Association, Vienna, Va., said that apple growers need a farm bill.
“We strongly encourage the House to get its work done,” she said.