Fate of Farm Bill may be tied to Fiscal Cliff Negotiations

The fate of the 2012 Farm Bill may now be tied to the outcome of House-White House negotiations on a grand deal to avert the fiscal cliff of spending cuts and tax hikes. The House may be out of time to consider a free standing farm bill with hundreds of amendments. Ag sources say House Ag Chair Frank Lucas has asked leadership for an unrealistic four days on the bill. A separate bill is not out of the question – but House leaders now see it as secondary to – and maybe later part of – a deal with the White House to avert the January fiscal cliff. Iowa GOP Senator Chuck Grassley says House and Senate ag staffers will have to move now to have a farm bill ready to insert in a last-minute cliff deal…

“If it had to wait until the fiscal cliff is done, you don’t have to wait until fiscal cliff agreements are reached, we can start negotiating the farm bill yesterday.”

But staff negotiations – then ratified by the Ag Chairs and Ranking Members – assumes dozes of lawmakers will give up their right to amendments – or even drop opposition to the huge stumbling block of food stamp cuts. Still – Grassley says House or Senate cuts – there’s a link to any cliff deal…
 

“The relationship to the fiscal cliff is that if they pass a farm bill today, its just a question of is it $23 billion of savings or $33 billion of savings. If it’s part of the fiscal cliff bill they are able to take credit for saving $23 billion.”
 

And could still do so – if there’s a free-standing bill. Grassley said recently he thinks a one-year extension is more likely – simply because there’s so little time left – but he’s not giving up on a full farm bill – free-standing or now possibly in a fiscal cliff deal. Grassley recently spoke with Senate Ag Chair Debbie Stabenow on the Senate floor…

“She said even a one year extension of the present farm bill doesn’t do everything that we would want to do because a lot of provisions of it haven’t been funded in the continued resolution that we are operating under.”
 

Like permanent disaster assistance for livestock producers. So Grassley says he’ll join Stabenow to keep the pressure on the House. But there’s no getting away from reality – the real pressure on the House now is to avert the fiscal cliff and a feared new recession if the effort fails.


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