By TIM THORNBERRY
FRANKFORT, Ky. — The election is over and all eyes are on Washington to see what, if any, legislation will come out of the lame duck session.
For farmers across the country their attention is focused on a new farm bill. The full U.S. Senate and the House Agriculture Committee each passed a version of a bill, but full House passage proved a bump in the road. The problem facing lawmakers now is there is much to do and little time in which to do it.
Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) said much remains on the to-do list, including the farm bill. “The House and Senate have yet to see eye-to-eye on a solution for the bill’s future, but I am hopeful that through ongoing negotiations, we will see a solution before the 112th Congress comes to an end,” he said.
“Our country is facing some monumental financial challenges and I hope that we can provide some certainty to the agriculture community, among others, as we move forward.”
Fellow Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa said he is ready to get back to work on important issues including a farm bill.
“I will continue to work with (Ag Committee) Chairman (Frank) Lucas, my colleagues on the Agriculture Committee and House leadership to push for a vote on the version of the farm bill passed back in July by the House Agriculture Committee,” he said.
Jeff Harper, director of the Public Affairs Division at Kentucky Farm Bureau, thinks an extension rather than a full farm bill might be the best the House can do in such a short session. He also said the first thing on the minds of legislators will be getting legislation passed to avoid the impending tax increases and automatic spending cuts that will occur at the end of the year, commonly referred to as the “fiscal cliff.”
“Something has be worked out on that, I believe. The clock’s ticking,” he said. “As for the farm bill, in my opinion, I don’t see a five-year farm bill coming out of the lame duck. I don’t think there’s time.”
The longer it takes for Congress to reach a deal on those tax cuts, Harper said, the more it reduces the chances on getting a full farm bill before the end of the year. He added if, indeed, an extension of the current bill is what happens, he thinks it will just be a one-year extension.
“Some components of that extension could include some disaster programs that were included in both versions of the bill,” he said.
Those could include a livestock indemnity program as well as forage disaster programs and emergency assistance for livestock.
But even a one-year extension could be difficult to obtain.
Democrat Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, the ranking member on the House Ag Committee, has been quoted as saying he is “110 percent” against it and would do everything he could to stop it.
King said while it is not uncommon for farm bills to be extended several times before a new one is passed, it is his hope extensions can be avoided and a full bill will pass this session. Ray Allan Mackey, president of the Kentucky Corn Growers Assoc., said getting a bill passed soon is important timing-wise because of the severe drought producers faced this year.
“The growing season that just finished was one of the worse droughts we’ve had in recent times and shows the very important need for some type of risk management tool that is included in the farm bill, otherwise known as crop insurance,” he said. “We need to keep some stability in farmers’ planning by providing for lower-cost crop insurance or a risk management tool that is in the farm bill.”
Mackey added a one-year extension would probably not be the best decision. “But yet, they tell us that may be the only thing we can hope for. We need some longer-term stability built into the market. A one-year extension doesn’t quite give us that security of knowing how things are going to operate from here out.”