The uncertainty for the passage of a five year Farm Bill in the 112th Congress came to an end on New Year’s Day with the passage of H.R. 8 The American Taxpayer Relief Act. The bill was passed to avoid the fiscal cliff, a collection of spending cuts and tax increases that might have plunged the country into another recession, and included a 9 month partial Farm Bill extension.
The extension only includes basic tenants of the Farm Bill and failed to reauthorize and fund several programs. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has a blog post with a very detail explanation as to why the Farm Bill extension is so awful. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack stated in his interview with NPR that those reliant on Farm Bill programs “…are now faced with uncertainty with how the policies might be, [they are faced with] uncertainty with how much support will ultimately be available once a five year bill is eventually past.”
Looking to the future, Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) said in an interview that she expects to pass a Farm Bill in the coming months. The bill may be marked up in the Senate committee as early as February and should include a minimum of $24 billion of deficit reduction. On the House side, Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) said during the Agriculture Committee's organizational meeting on January 22nd that "...this is a new Congress and a new opportunity to pass a new Farm Bill." House Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) is leading an effort to block a Farm Bill markup without the assurance from the House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) that the bill will see floor time. He expressed some of his frustration during the organizational meeting.
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