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House Republicans Scrap Plan to Extend U.S. Agriculture Law

July 31 (Bloomberg) -- House Republican leaders dropped a plan for a vote on a one-year extension of U.S. agriculture policy, averting a showdown with agricultural industry groups led by the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Instead, lawmakers will vote on reviving disaster relief aid to drought-stricken livestock producers, David Dreier, a California Republican and chairman of the Rules Committee, said today in an interview. A vote may come on Aug. 2.

House Speaker John Boehner earlier had endorsed a one-year extension of the current five-year agriculture law that expires in September, pushing back any debate on the bill beyond the November elections. A measure that would restore disaster aid provisions for livestock producers that expired last year had been attached to the bill.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, Republican of Oklahoma, said his priority remains the passage of a five-year bill.

“But the most pressing business before us is to provide disaster assistance to those producers impacted by the drought conditions who are currently exposed,” Lucas said today in a statement.

The Farm Bureau, National Farmers Union and crop industry groups from corn to wheat to soybeans had opposed an extension unless it would be used as a vehicle to get to conference with the Senate, which has already passed a five-year bill. Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said yesterday the speaker would oppose using the measure to get to conference.

Leader in the House and Senate have said Congress should pass drought relief before the end of the week, when Congress leaves town for its August recess, not returning until Sept. 10.

“It strikes most of us that some kind of drought assistance clearing the Congress and getting to the president this week would be a good idea, given the severity of conditions all across the central part of the country,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, told reporters today.

To contact the reporter on this story: Derek Wallbank in Washington at dwallbank@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steve Geimann at sgeimann@bloomberg.net

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