Did anyone really think we'd get a Farm Bill by waiting until after the election?
Hopes of salvaging a long-term farm bill in this Congress are fading fast as Speaker John Boehner continues to resist including any such legislation in a year-end budget deal with President Barack Obama.
Both the White House and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner have said savings promised from commodity subsidies could be part of a deficit reduction down payment this year. And as recently as last week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urged farm bill negotiators to work "24/7" so they could be the "caboose" on any legislative train leaving before New Year’s.
But sources familiar with the deficit talks paint a very different picture: of the speaker digging in, saying he can’t include the farm bill in any package for fear of losing more Republican votes [David Rogers, "Boehner's Stand Dims Farm Bill Hopes," Politico, 2012.12.18].
Oooo... that "work 24/7" thing must have scared Rep. Kristi Noem away from getting the Farm Bill done. With her sophomore-year senioritis kicking in, she doesn't want to work any harder than she has to.
Noem and Boehner knew the fiscal cliff was coming. They knew a budget deal would be hard to pass. They knew trying to squeeze the Farm Bill into already an already intense legislative battle would only make it harder to take car of either the Farm Bill or the fiscal cliff.
Previous Congresses managed to pass Farm Bills on time in tough political situations. But now Rep. Noem and Speaker Boehner appear either unable or unwilling to make good farm policy happen.
By the way, one immediate impact of failing to pass a farm bill right now would be a possible doubling of milk prices:
Without an extension by Jan. 1, 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. The result could be havoc — many estimate a doubling in consumer prices for milk.
"I will do what the law requires me to do," [USDA Secretary Tom] Vilsack said at a press conference last week. "It’s fair to say milk prices will increase, and that’s an unfortunate circumstance … Consumers shouldn’t have to have higher milk costs because Congress can’t get its work done" [Rogers, 2012.12.18].
Kristi and I both like raisin bran. Letting the Farm Bill lapse unnecessarily increases both the government spending and our personal grocery spending. Kristi, do your job. Skip that fundraiser and get the Farm Bill done.