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Agriculture News As It Happens

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Next question: The rule on the farm bill extension

House leaders have not yet figured out what kind of rule on amendments will govern debate on the bill to extend the 2008 farm bill and provide disaster aid for livestock producers and specialty crop growers that is expected to come up next week.

“Details are still being sorted regarding the best path forward for addressing drought conditions and the farm bill,” a spokeswoman for House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., told The Hagstrom Report today.

The farm bill that passed the House Agriculture Committee contained a number of controversial amendments, but that bill is apparently being dropped in favor of passing a less controversial extension bill that would be combined with the Senate-passed farm bill in conference in September.

Farm lobbyists began asking Thursday evening whether amendments will be allowed.

The House Republican leadership has generally pursued a policy of open rules on bills, which allow amendments, but one of the reasons the leadership has been reluctant to bring the farm bill to the floor is concern that amendments to reduce or increase the $16.5 billion cut to the food stamp program over 10 years could lead to difficult debates and votes that members do not want to take.

Lucas said earlier that he hoped he would have time to explain the rule surrounding the committee-passed bill to members.

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said he hoped that the House Rules Committee would agree to a modified open rule, which would limit the number of amendments on the committee-passed bill. Peterson has not commented on the rule for the extension bill.

The House Rules Committee could also issue a closed rule which would allow no amendments.

The bill is expected to come up on the House floor next week, and if it passes, to be combined with the Senate-passed farm bill in September.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., on Thursday issued a statement of cautious optimism about House plans to take up an extension of the bill next week with disaster aid for livestock and specialty crop producers attached to it.

“If the House intends to send us a bill that will be used to negotiate the farm bill during August, I am open to that approach,” Stabenow said in an email.

“However, a short-term extension is bad for farmers and our agricultural economy. If Congress does what Congress always does and kicks the can down the road with a short-term extension, there will be no reform, direct payments will continue, we’ll lose the opportunity for major deficit reduction and we'll deliver a real blow to our economic recovery. What’s important is at the end of the day we give our farmers certainty with a full farm bill and keep our agriculture economy growing.”