Ted Booker reports:
A one-year extension of the current farm bill that was set to be voted on by the U.S. House of Representatives today was unexpectedly pulled by Republican leaders Tuesday, as legislators from both sides of the aisle said they wouldn’t vote for it because the 2012 farm bill now ready for a vote.
House Republican leaders had planned to pass the extension by the end of the week before Congress breaks for its five-week summer recess. But now that the unpopular plan has been scrapped, legislators who back the five-year farm bill are feeling more upbeat that it will be passed by Sept. 30, when the current bill that was passed in 2008 expires.
“I wouldn’t say the extension has been scrapped for good, but I think they pulled it because people think this is a bad game plan for farmers in communities that need help,” said Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, who heard about the news at the end of the day Tuesday. Most Republicans and Democrats in the House, including Mr. Owens, said that wouldn’t vote for the extension unless there was a guarantee that the 2012 farm bill get voted on. The Senate’s version of the bill was already passed in June.
Farming groups across the country, including the New York Farm Bureau, oppose passing one-year extension of the current bill, which they say would likely fizzle the chance of approving the 2012 farm bill.If an extension is approved instead of the farm bill, the amount of funding available to dairy farmers in Northern New York would markedly drop, said Steve Ammerman, manager of public affairs for the New York Farm Bureau. The move would reduce funding for the current Milk Income Loss Contract insurance program, which provides reimbursements to farmers when milk prices drop below a federal target.
“Dairy farmers here would get less assistance if a one-year extension goes through, and everyone’s trying to keep the pressure up to pass the farm bill instead of the extension,” Mr. Ammerman said. “We believe there are enough votes from Republicans and Democrats in the House to do that — and both parties could take credit for getting it done.”
Passage of an extension would also delay the establishment of a new margin insurance program in the farm bill set to replace the MILC program. Free for farmers to participate in, the voluntary program is designed to help farmers combat low milk prices and high feed costs; it would reimburse farmers when the difference between their costs and prices exceed a certain threshold. At the same time, it would also attempt to manage the national milk supply by penalizing farmers who produce more milk than planned.
Farm groups and legislators — including the Obama administration — have urged House Republican leaders to vote on the farm bill before Congress leaves for summer recess, but so far to no avail. The bill was approved by the House Agriculture Committee in July with a 35-11 vote.