Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Farm Bill unlikely in debt deal, but what about milk?

House Speaker John Boehner remains opposed to including a five-year Farm Bill in a forthcoming budget-deficit-and-debt deal, though the Senate-passed version would reduce federal spending by $23 billion over the next 10 years and the House favors more cuts. David Rogers of Politico reports sources told him that Boehner "can’t include the Farm Bill in any package for fear of losing more Republican votes. . . . Boehner believes adding a farm bill is too cumbersome at this stage and it is better kicked over to a new Congress."

But it's not all on Boehner. "This is also a bill dying of a thousand cuts and a certain measure of indifference by the White House and even farmers grown content with high prices," Rogers writes. Also, Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., "may have hurt herself last week by so aggressively – and publicly — criticizing a House offer on the commodity title," and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack "stayed out of the farm-bill debate for much of this year," so he finds it harder "to assert himself now."

The fallback position is a temporary extension of current programs, but that is complicated by a need to stabilize the dairy program and the prospect of mich higher milk prices. "Boehner has strongly opposed the stabilization language because of his own home state’s dairy interests in Ohio. But in this case, House Ag Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., has thrown in with Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, the committee’s ranking Democrat and the chief architect of the dairy security reforms." Unless the program is extended, "Dairy policy reverts to a 1949 law that prescribes a post-World War II vision of a more muscular government buying up dairy products directly to boost prices. The Agriculture Department would pay producers $38.54 per hundredweight compared to a market now running near $16.22," Rogers explains.

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