See related article: Farm bill inaction hangs up specialty crop, research funds.
Despite a united front from farm groups at a Farm Bill Now rally Sept. 12 asking for quick action, Congress cancelled an October work session and took a seven-week recess without finishing up work on the 2012 farm bill.
“All of our eggs are basically in the lame duck basket, which is not an ideal situation,” said Mike Stuart, president of the Maitland, Fla.-based Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association and co-chairman of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance. “We are going to have to work with our supporters in both the House and the Senate to see if we can get it done.”
Industry lobbyists said the farm bill support is bipartisan and warrants action.
“We’re tired of kicking the can down the road,” said Robert Guenther, senior vice president for public policy at the United Fresh Produce Association. “There are a lot of issues to deal with during the lame duck session but we want to make sure this is one the top ones that will be considered.”
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement that House Republicans were to blame for the failure to pass the farm bill.
“Without the certainty of a multi-year bill, rural communities are being asked to shoulder undue burdens,” he said.
“We’re at that point now where fussing and worrying and complaining about the farm bill not getting done doesn’t accomplish much,” said Dale Moore, deputy executive director at the Washington, D.C. based American Farm Bureau Federation. “The lame duck is our next opportunity.”
Election results could have a large influence on what get’s done during the lame duck session, Moore said. If the margins close up considerably or they flip, he said new leadership could keep legislation bottled up until January.
The “hail Mary” approach would be if House agriculture leaders conference with the Senate based on the bill that passed out of the House Agriculture Committee, despite the fact that the farm bill wasn’t considered by the full House. In that scenario, the conference report or the final would be voted on by both the House and the Senate.
Moore said if a new farm bill is not passed by the end of 2012, Congress would likely pass a three-month to one-year extension of the current farm bill.
Despite the expiration of the farm bill Sept. 30, Congress passed a continuing resolution that funds most big ticket farm bill programs, such as food stamps, through March.