Gardner: House now looking at three-month farm bill extension
September 24, 2012
House leadership has expressed interest in a three-month extension of the current farm bill rather than passing a new five-year piece of legislation before the next recess, according to Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo.
With the current farm bill set to expire Sept. 30 and with only three voting days left before an approaching legislative recess, chairman for the House Committee on Agriculture Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., was among House leaders supporting the extension Friday, Gardner said in a phone interview.
The proposed extension goes against the wishes of Gardner and many others — including Platteville-area farmer Ben Rainbolt, who serves as the executive director of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, and who has been in Washington, D.C., this week meeting with congressmen and urging them to pass a new five-year farm bill.
Gardner and Rainbolt both stressed that a three-month extension of the current farm bill leaves too much uncertainly for producers who are trying to plan ahead for next year — specifically leaving many questions regarding disaster relief for those who suffered losses from this year's drought. The current farm bill also includes some outdated measures, such as direct payments, which most producers are in favor of doing away with, Rainbolt noted.
"I just don't understand why we can't get this thing passed," Rainbolt said, who had met with 15 congressmen in recent days, and who also attended a Farm Bill Now rally in the nation's Capitol this past week. That event was attended by 32 other members of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and a number of other agriculture organizations, Rainbolt said.
Like Rainbolt, Gardner expressed frustration Friday regarding the House's proposed three-month extension. Gardner added that the House won't reconvene until Wednesday — taking off Monday and Tuesday in observance of the Jewish holiday, Rosh Hashanah, — and beyond Friday, Congress will recess until Nov. 13.
"It's frustrating," Gardner said. "Whether there's a scheduled recess or not, I'd like to see us stick around until we get a new five-year farm bill passed. We're letting down a lot of producers."
Farm bills encompass drought-relief, conservation and commodity programs, trade, rural development, farm credit, agricultural research, food and nutrition programs and marketing, and they have big implications for producers and many others closely tied to the industry, including bankers.
The House Committee on Agriculture passed a farm bill with bipartisan support this summer, but since then, House leadership has not brought the measure to the floor for a vote.
House leadership has not been able to come to an agreement over the extent of cuts that should be made to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, among other issues.
About three-fourths of farm bill funding goes toward food stamps and other nutrition programs. The House's proposed bill includes $35 billion in cuts over 10 years — including about $16 billion to the SNAP program — but some House leaders feel cuts should go deeper.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urged agriculture organizations this week in fiery language to fight for a new farm bill and continue pushing Congress to do so.
Earlier this summer, the Senate passed its version of a farm bill — one that would reduce the federal deficit by $23 billion over the next 10 years and include about $4 billion in cuts to SNAP programs.