Biggest Farm Groups Oppose Extension of Agriculture Law

The two largest U.S. farm groups have come out against a proposed one-year extension of an agriculture-policy law that expires in September, saying producers of the nation’s crops and livestock need more certainty, especially amid a record drought.

House Republican leaders last week proposed an extension, tying the measure to a provision that would revive drought-relief measures for ranchers that expired a year ago. Unlike growers of major crops such as corn and soybeans, livestock and poultry producers aren’t covered by government insurance programs. The House Rules Committee is scheduled to consider the bill tomorrow, just days before Congress leaves Washington for its August recess.

“As the drought wreaks havoc across the nation, our farmers and livestock producers are looking for relief and certainty,” Roger Johnson, the president of the National Farmers Union, said today in a statement. A one-year extension would mean beginning the process of writing a farm bill again in January, when lawmakers elected in November take office, he said.

The group would support an extension only if it leads to a House-Senate conference on a full five-year bill before current law expires, Johnson said.

The American Farm Bureau Federation said today that it would continue to push for the passage of a five-year bill this year. The group is the biggest farm group, followed by the National Farmers Union.

Five-Year Bill

“AFBF believes the priority is passage of a new five-year farm bill,” Mary Kay Thatcher, senior director of congressional relations for the Farm Bureau, said in an e-mail. “This approach is not being presented as a vehicle to get the respective full Senate and House committee versions of the farm bill in conference, and therefore does not appear to be getting us any closer to completing the new farm bill.”

The one-year bill “does nothing” for hog or poultry producers and little for the dairy industry, Thatcher said. Disaster-relief provisions in the extension legislation also are in the Senate and House five-year bills.

House Speaker John Boehner is opposed to using the proposed one-year extension as a way to get to a conference with the Senate on a full five-year bill, a spokesman, Michael Steel, said today in an e-mail. Steel said no conversations concerning that approach are taking place.

Current Law

The current agriculture-policy law was passed in 2008, authorizing spending for all U.S. Department of Agriculture programs, including food stamps and conservation initiatives and subsidies, through Sept. 30.

The Senate, where the Democrats are in control, passed a replacement bill in June that would cut $23.6 billion if stretched out over a 10-year period. The House Agriculture Committee on July 12 approved a version with deeper reductions, $35.1 billion over a decade. Boehner, an Ohio Republican, never scheduled a vote on the measure.

The Washington-based Club for Growth, which espouses smaller government, today said it would urge House Republican leaders to resist a conference with the Senate.

“Republicans should be fighting to cut spending and limit government, not compromising with Democrats to spend billion on farm subsidies and food stamps,” the group’s president, Chris Chocola, said today in a statement.

The one-year extension bill is H.R. 6228.

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