The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens


No word on farm bill in ‘fiscal cliff’ talks

President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, appear to be edging closer to an agreement on the fiscal cliff legislation. But there has been no word on whether the farm bill would be included, and no apparent progress on negotiations between the House and Senate agriculture committees on differences between the Senate-passed and House Agriculture Committee-passed bill.

Obama and Boehner met Sunday at the White House, and each issued a statement that the line of communication was open.

Obama traveled to Michigan today to campaign for his position. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said on MSNBC today that he believes there is “more than 50-50 chance” that agreement will be reached on the bill.

But Van Hollen also said he believes that the agreement would be reached before the end of the year — a sign that Congress could be in session between Christmas and New Year’s.

One key farm lobbyist said leaders of the agriculture committee “are a bit stuck until Boehner and [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid, [D-Nev.] tell them they will or won’t put the bill in the fiscal cliff.

“I don’t think either side wants to put too many cards on the table and compromise in case it doesn’t get done and we do a one-year extension instead,” the lobbyist said.

On nutrition, the lobbyist added, “Reid and Boehner will completely call the shot. Reid and Boehner will present the committees with a number such as a $9 billion cut over 10 years and say, ‘Now you guys go figure out how to get there.’”

Meanwhile, the Environmental Working Group and other organizations critical of farm spending held a joint news conference today urging Congress not to pass a “secret farm bill” in the fiscal cliff deal, and to instead pass a one-year extension of the expired 2008 farm bill.

Scott Faber

Scott Faber
“Our groups may not agree on many things,” Scott Faber, EWG vice president for government affairs said in a statement. “But, we are united in our view that it would unconscionable for our nation’s leaders to bypass the House and attach a $1 trillion farm bill to legislation designed to right the nation's finances.”

“This is especially true in light of the fact that both the House and Senate farm bills actually increase unlimited crop insurance subsidies at a time of unprecedented farm wealth,” Faber said.

“The time to pass a farm bill has come and gone. Congress should pass a fiscally responsible one-year extension of farm and food programs and allow the House to debate the future of farm subsidies.”

The other groups that called the news conference are Americans for Prosperity, Citizens Against Government Waste, National Taxpayers Union, Taxpayers for Common Sense, R Street, U.S. PIRG and the American Enterprise Institute.

Former House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest, R-Texas, who is now a lobbyist representing a variety of farm groups, said in an email today that he found the coalition odd, and said he does not believe they would favor continuation of the direct payments program as part of an extension.

“Congress should pass the farm bill,” Combest added.

David Beckmann

David Beckmann
Bread for the World today released an analysis comparing Obama’s and Boehner’s budget proposals.

“President Obama’s proposal appears to protect poor people, while Speaker Boehner’s would cause a lot of hurt,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. “But neither proposal explicitly commits to a circle of protection around programs focused on poor and hungry people.”

Beckmann also noted that Boehner has specifically proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, which is better known as food stamps.