House Ag leaders unsure of floor timing for farm bill, focus on July markup

By Sarah Gonzalez

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WASHINGTON, June 27, 2012- The House Agriculture Appropriations bill is unlikely to hit the floor until after the House Agriculture Committee's markup of farm bill legislation beginning on July 11, said House Agriculture Chairman Committee Frank Lucas, R-Okla., today.

“I've made it very clear to leadership that I prefer they not have it at the same time,” he said. “As of this moment, I don't anticipate having ag appropriations in the House at same time as the farm bill markup in the committee.”

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The agriculture appropriations bill, passed through the House Appropriations Committee two weeks ago and initially expected to be debated on the floor this week, is slated for some time after the chamber completes its consideration of the transportation bill.

In the meantime, Lucas is focused on marking up the farm bill on July 11, and noted “we need several days to get our work done and if necessary we'll delegate people among ourselves to the floor.”

House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said today that the committee is on track for the July 11 markup. 

“The only thing that's going to screw this up is if we don't get floor time,” he said. Peterson mentioned that House leadership “has not been forthcoming” about floor time for the farm bill or the agriculture appropriations bill. 

Lucas said he has not yet pressed House leadership on floor time for the farm bill, because he “doesn't' have a bill to press,” but when the committee completes markup in the days after July 11, “that becomes the next biggest issue for me.”

When the time comes to reconcile differences between the House version and the Senate bill, or the “Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012,” S. 3240, Lucas said he's confident the two chambers will be able to reach an agreement, using the “Super” Committee process as an example.

“Just as we achieved consensus back in September in the hurry-up, we'll achieve consensus this time,” he said. “We're just not at that point of hashing out the details.”

The House version is expected to have several differences from the Senate-passed bill, including higher target prices for rice and peanuts, a countercyclical option and deeper cuts to the nutrition title. 

Peterson said the House bill “will be good for all parts of the country as opposed to what the Senate did,” alluding the southern commodities' discontent with the Senate bill's reliance on crop insurance.

Lucas noted today that he “had a good long conversation” with Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., regarding differences between each chamber's legislation.  

“She understands I have to do my work with the committee,” he said. “When we get to conference certainly the bills will have to be melded together, but we've not talked about particulars. I understand the importance of crop revenue to her; she understands the importance of letting a safety net to southern farmers and people in southern plains to me.”

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