Pointing to “extremism and cynicism” among House Republicans, the Democratic leader on the House Agriculture Committee called for a one-year extension of current law to allow time to write a bipartisan farm bill. Meanwhile, House Agriculture chairman Glenn Thompson told a home-state newspaper to expect a farm bill vote in the House during December.
Democratic Rep. David Scott was the second of the “four corners” — the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate and House Agriculture committees — to suggest a one-year extension of the 2018 farm law, which expired on Sept. 30. Unless Congress acts, the government-guaranteed price for fresh milk will more than double on Jan. 1 under the terms of a 1949 statute.
“While we continue the bipartisan effort on the House Agriculture Committee to craft a new farm bill, the extremism and cynicism that has taken hold of the broader House Republican Conference makes a five-year farm bill reauthorization by the year’s end increasingly unlikely,” said Scott. “A one-year extension is the responsible thing to do. It allows our farmers, ranchers, and foresters to operate with an element of certainty while we continue working on a bipartisan five-year farm bill.”
A farm bill extension could be a rider on legislation to fund the government after Nov. 17, when stop-gap funding expires. Farm bills run for hundreds of pages of widely ranging topics and can require lengthy debate, followed by House-Senate negotiation, to reach enactment.
Thompson called on the House to “do our job by January” by passing its version of the farm bill. The chairman said he would “be very disappointed if we don’t do that,” reported the Times Observer, of Warren, Pennsylvania.
House Speaker Mike Johnson has allotted one week for House debate of the farm bill in December, said Thompson, so he planned to release a first-round draft two weeks ahead of debate, with the Agriculture Committee to approve it the following week. As part of campaigning for election as speaker, Johnson circulated a proposed schedule for House work that proposed “pass the farm bill and await Senate action” in December. “Begin negotiations as soon as possible.”
A Thompson spokesman was not immediately available for comment on the farm bill timeline.
Farm bill discussions were at an impasse over increases in crop subsidy funding. Farm groups and their allies in Congress want higher reference prices, which would make it easier to trigger payments, and an expansion of federally subsidized crop insurance. To offset the cost, they would confiscate $20 billion in climate funding and a pool of money for clean energy in rural America. Democrats rejected those diversions when Thompson floated the idea. Beyond that, some House conservatives hope to slash SNAP benefits. SNAP accounts for 80 cents of each $1 in farm bill costs.
With an extension, “next year will be the key year,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told an Indianapolis TV station. Randy Kron, president of the Indiana Farm Bureau, joined Vilsack in saying a one-year extension was likely. “I know the new speaker says they want to get a farm bill done this year, but to get it through the House and the Senate and signed, is highly unlikely.”