Sen. Mike Johanns expects any new farm legislation to be based on the old legislation that failed to make it through the last Congress.
The “fiscal cliff” deal extended the current 2008 Farm Bill for another eight months.
Johanns, a Republican who served as Agriculture Secretary under President George W. Bush, says that doesn’t mean all the work that went into getting a Farm Bill through the Senate last session will be wasted in the new session. Johanns foresees that legislation as being the foundation when talks resume.
“Now, what we need though, we need a partner in the House. We need a bill that we can take to conference and conference,” Johanns tells Nebraska reporters during a conference call. “I’m confident that if we can get a bill to conference we can reach an agreement on what it should look like and get it done.”
The Senate got a good start more than a year ago, according to Johanns, which led to passage with bipartisan support. The Senate approved a bill that shifted philosophy on agriculture policy away from direct payments and toward using crop insurance to manage risks, a change spurred by high commodity prices as ethanol and bio-diesel pushed corn and soybean prices higher. The measure would have saved an estimated $23-to-30 billion dollars.
The House Agriculture Committee approved its own version, but the legislation languished. When it appeared uncertain of passage, House leadership refused to bring it to the floor for debate. Some House members demanded deeper cuts to the nutrition portion of the bill, the portion that funds food stamp programs.
Last minute attempts to tie the Farm Bill to the fiscal cliff deal failed. So, supporters succeeded in attaching a provision that extends the current Farm Bill, approved in 2008, for another eight months. That avoided testing a provision in federal law that calls for farm legislation to revert to 1949 law if current law is allowed to lapse.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]