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House to consider farm bill extension next week, to be conferenced with Senate bill in September

By JERRY HAGSTROM

A new scenario for passing a farm bill this year emerged today under which the House, with Democratic support, would pass an extension of the 2008 farm bill next week that would include livestock and fruit and vegetable disaster aid, with that bill to be conferenced with the Senate-passed farm bill in September.

The vote could occur as early as Wednesday. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has already begun asking freshmen members to vote for the bill, National Journal Daily reported today.

Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla.
Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., said that the bill needed to be passed before the August recess and that this was a logical approach, NJ reported.

“If you’re going to provide certainty out in the drought areas if you’re going to enable an orderly transition from the completion of the regular farm bill then a one-year makes sense,” Lucas told NJ.

Lucas also told NJ that House leadership was on board for the vote. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters today that he believes the House will address the need for livestock disaster aid, and that he is working with Lucas “on a path forward.”

Boehner did not answer a follow-up question on whether that would be attached to an extension or to a new farm bill.

Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn.
Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn.
House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., who had earlier opposed an extension, said today that Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., had called to ask him to support the extension, and that she and Senate Agriculture ranking member Pat Roberts, R-Kan., support this approach.

Peterson said that House passage of the extension would allow staff to work during August on a conference report that would be brought up in September. Peterson said that he had initially wanted an ironclad promise of a conference, but that after speaking with the House Parliamentarian he was assured that "if the Senate wants a conference, Boehner can't do anything to stop it."

Peterson said he is encouraging House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., to take this approach.

“It’s pretty clear Republicans can’t get enough votes without me,” Peterson said.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said on the House floor today that the Republicans want to address disaster aid next week, and that he hopes Hoyer will support the bill.

Hoyer said he hopes there will be a bill he can support “without making the deficit worse.”

Jim Weill

Jim Weill
Meanwhile, Food Research and Action Center Jim Weill told The Hagstrom Report that anti-hunger advocates favor a one-year extension of the farm bill with no cuts to the food stamp program over a five-year bill.

“A process that makes sure there are no cuts in SNAP [the supplemental nutrition assistance program] this year is a good outcome for struggling families,” Weill said in an interview on the sidelines of The Diane Rehm Show.

Peterson said he was aware of FRAC's view, but believes he has “damped down” that viewpoint among House members.

The House farm bill that apparently will now not be considered on the House floor would cut food stamps by $16.5 billion over 10 years, while the Senate bill would cut $4.5 billion over 10 years. FRAC and other anti-hunger groups have opposed all cuts, but 66 senators voted against an amendment offered by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., that would have restored the funds cut in the Senate bill.

Pressure continues to build for passage of a farm bill this year.

“Congress can and should finish its work on a 2012 farm bill,” the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition said in an email Wednesday.