United States farm policy for the next five years remains in limbo as Washington focuses on the so-called “fiscal cliff”.
It nearly seems hopeless to expect Congress to take up farm legislation during the lame-duck session.
“I don’t want to give up on a five-year bill, yet,” says Congressman Adrian Smith.
Smith says the House could consider the Farm Bill this month.
“We’re working to round-up the votes in the full House from both sides of the aisle. I think we need to get this done sooner rather than later,” Smith says.
The Senate passed a farm bill. The House Agriculture Committee approved a measure. Leadership in the House has refused to take up the measure, presumably because it would not have the votes to pass.
Sen. Mike Johanns, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and a former Agriculture Secretary, says many members of the House don’t believe the Senate’s $5 billion cut to the nutrition programs cuts deep enough.
“They do not believe that the Senate cuts were enough. So, they’re pushing for a larger number,” Johanns says. “But, that’s a fair debate.”
Spending on various food stamp programs has grown considerably the last few years, especially spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Program (SNAP).
Johanns says there is some justification for growth in the program, but many are concerned that it is growing too rapidly.
Things might be working below the surface which could break the logjam and clear a way for the Farm Bill to move forward.
Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, says leaders from both chambers have been talking.
“There is some discussion right now that both the Senate and House leadership of the ag committees are deliberating as to how to put together a measure that might be attached to any eleventh hour compromise on the fiscal cliff and get us a full five-year farm bill,” according to Fortenberry.
That, though, hinges on whether discussions about extending the Bush-era tax cuts and avoiding automatic, deep budget cuts move forward.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]