WASHINGTON, July 20 -2012 -  Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., is not optimistic that GOP leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives will put the 2012 farm bill on the House floor before the August recess, but he’s confident lawmakers will get it done before the current law expires on Sept. 30.

“There’s no good reason not to do this,” emphasized Peterson, who added that he doesn’t think Speaker Boehner is “the problem.” But he added: “I don’t think (House Majority Leader) Cantor’s folks get this at all. They are clueless.”

With the drought burning up crops across the country and some hard-pressed livestock producers already starting to liquidate herds, Peterson told Agri-Pulse during an interview this morning that he expects lawmakers to hear from a lot of their constituents over the August recess.

If nothing happens before the recess, Peterson says: “These guys are going to go home in August and get the hell beat out of them. So when they come back in September, it could be one of the first things they get done.”

Peterson, who serves as ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, plans to meet next Tuesday, July 24, with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and ranking member Pat Roberts, R-Kan., to discuss their strategy for advancing the bill and whether or not “we can work this out over August and be ready to go.”

While he declined to provide specifics, he suggested that there may be a way to start discussions on how to conference the House Agriculture Committee passed bill with the Senate passed version.  He also wants to find a way to extend the standing disaster program for crops – even though such language is not included in either the version of the bill.

Both the House and Senate versions of the 2012 farm bill extend the livestock disaster assistance programs and a tree assistance program, but do not extend the Supplemental Revenue  Assistance Program (SURE).  Last week Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., Jon Tester, D-Mont., Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and Tim Johnson, D-S.D., introduced S. 3384, which would extend SURE for the 2012 crop year and change calculations to speed up payments that, in the previous version, often frustrated farmers because of lengthy payment delays.

Peterson surprised many when he delivered 13 of the committee’s 20 Democrats to support final passage of H.R. 6083 in the earlyhours of July 12. While he hasn’t looked at a hard whip count yet, Peterson says 40-50 Democrats will likely support the farm bill bill on the House floor. That leaves it up to the GOP leadership to find about 180 votes to pass the measure.




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