WASHINGTON, Dec. 10, 2013 – Top farm bill conferees announced today that they are unable to complete a long-term bill by the end of the year because of a lack of agreement on a “magnitude” of issues and due to a lack of Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scores.
Still, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., said he intends to offer legislation today or tomorrow to extend the 2008 farm bill through to Jan. 31. The bill would be a straight extension of all titles.
The House is scheduled to adjourn for the year on Friday, and Lucas said he wants to provide the Senate with a vehicle to extend the current extension, which expires Dec. 31.
However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said today the Senate will not take up the extension.
“A one-month extension through January could allow direct payments to continue for another year,” Stabenow said. “That’s absolutely unacceptable and will not pass the Senate. I urge House leadership to keep the House in session next week so we can get this done by the end of the year.”
Stabenow said a large number of senators on both sides of the aisle oppose continuing direct payments, even for a short amount of time. Both the House and Senate bill would end the payments.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has been pushing for an extension, and has repeatedly said the chamber will leave for the year on Friday.
Stabenow said conferees are still waiting for CBO scores on the legislation’s titles.
“The person doing the scoring is stuck in another state,” Stabenow said, noting the recent severe weather. “We’re literally waiting on scores that affects our timing.”
Despite rampant fears that the price of a gallon of milk could double if a farm bill is not done by the end of the year, Stabenow said she spoke to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today and he assured there would be no impacts on dairy prices in January.
“Our goal is to get it wrapped up and ready so in the beginning of January, we can do our conference meeting and move quickly to pass the bill,” Stabenow said.
Neither Stabenow nor Lucas would provide details on any progress conferees have made on the various contentious issues involving the commodity title, nutrition title, and dairy provisions, among other things.
“We’re very close on many titles,” Stabenow said.
By contrast, Lucas said, “There are a magnitude issues out there.” Lucas said it would be very difficult to get a five-year far bill done this year.
House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said he considers an extension a “bad idea,” but he could be swayed. “I would like to vote against it if they bring it up, but I might not if I think it will help get us a vote at the end of the day.”
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