Farm Bill Extension Will Not be Considered This Week
House leadership has pulled the measure that would have extended the 2008 Farm Bill for a year and provided disaster aid. A separate disaster aid package is supposed to be considered today (Thursday). It was initially reported the bill will be considered under suspension of the rules – but the House Rules Committee has decided the House will bring up the bill under a closed rule. That means there will be a one-hour debate on the bill, it cannot be amended and a two-thirds majority is required for passage. House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson isn't sure the measure will reach that threshold.
The Congressional Budget Office scores the one-year disaster bill as costing 383-million dollars. The cost is offset by 639-million dollars in cuts from the Conservation Stewardship and Environmental Quality Incentives Programs – with 256-million dollars going to deficit reduction. House Ag Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson is not a big fan of using conservation program cuts as an offset for the disaster aid package. While he doesn't like it – Peterson says he will vote for the package because of Frank Lucas – in a show of good faith.
Peterson doesn't believe the Senate will have time to act – so he doesn't expect it will become law before the August recess. But Senate Majority Leader has called on the House to do something about drought relief and send it to his chamber. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said it would be a good idea to get drought assistance through the Congress and to the President this week given the severity of conditions across the central part of the country.
Come September – Peterson says House members will be under pressure to pass a new five-year farm bill. He believes there are enough votes to pass the farm bill approved by the House Agriculture Committee. House Ag Chair Frank Lucas stated Tuesday that his priority is to get a five-year farm bill on the books and put those policies in place. But he said the most pressing business before Congress is to provide disaster assistance to those producers impacted by the drought conditions who are currently exposed. He encouraged his colleagues to support the disaster assistance package. Lucas added that the challenges U.S. farmers and ranchers are currently facing only underscores how important it is to complete a five-year farm bill this year.