A Farm Bill Finished Before 2012 Election?


Jerry Hagstrom, DTN Political Correspondent

WASHINGTON (DTN) — The leaders of the House and Senate agriculture committees plan to write the 2012 farm bill on an expedited schedule next year and to send it to President Barack Obama for his signature before the fall election.

But the writing processes in the two chambers will be very different, lawmakers said in a series of interviews this week.

Lobbyists have questioned whether Congress can finish a farm bill in one year, but House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., told the North American Agricultural Journalists, “This is more likely to be a quicker one than a longer one.”

Some Republicans have suggested putting off the final bill until 2013 when a Republican president might be in office, but Lucas hinted that farmers are more likely to get a better bill when a president is facing re-election. Lucas said that, while he doesn’t consider the Obama White House oriented toward agriculture, the Bush White House didn’t focus on the issue either. Bush signed a farm bill before the election in 2002 when he was facing re-election, but didn’t sign it in 2008 when he was a lame duck, and Congress had to pass it over his veto, Lucas noted.

“We are better off to give the president a chance to sign a good farm bill before he goes out to the countryside,” Lucas added.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., who has declined to set a deadline for finishing the bill, said Tuesday that it is her intention to write a 2012 bill.

Senate Agriculture ranking member Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said, “We’ll write it in 2012.”

Meanwhile, House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., proposes that the bill not be considered until the March 2012 Congressional Budget Office numbers are released and the 2013 budget resolution is considered.

“My intention is to work with the Senate because that is something that can pass and the president can sign,” Peterson said. “I think the Senate should move first. Conrad will put together a budget. I would like the Senate to do the bill before the House writes it.”

Roberts, who chaired the House committee when the 1996 farm bill was written, praised Ryan for writing a bold budget proposal, but said, “The House budget will have a bearing on the Senate, but the Senate will pass its own bill.”

In terms of policy, there has been pressure to end the direct payments that crop farmers get whether prices are high or low. But Lucas said he would not propose any cuts this year.

“If we step away from a program now, the budgetary wolves will carve up that money,” he said.

Lucas also said he wants to continue the Conservation Reserve Program, which idles cropland for environmental reasons, at the current level of 32 million acres. It’s OK if market forces lead landowners to put less land in the CRP, Lucas said, but he wants it in place in case farmers want to use it.

Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at jerry.hagstrom@telventdtn.com


© Copyright 2011 DTN/The Progressive Farmer, A Telvent Brand. All rights reserved.

Posted with DTN Permission by Haylie Shipp


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