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House Drops Plan for One-Year Extension of U.S. Agriculture Law

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Aug. 1 (Bloomberg) -- House Republican leaders abandoned plans for a one-year extension of U.S. agriculture policy, averting a showdown with farm groups led by the American Farm Bureau Federation who want a new five-year law.

Instead, lawmakers will vote on reviving disaster relief for drought-stricken livestock producers, David Dreier, a California Republican and chairman of the Rules Committee, said yesterday in an interview. Representative Frank Lucas, chairman of the Agriculture Committee, said the House will take up the measure tomorrow, days before Congress begins a monthlong recess.

Lucas, an Oklahoma Republican, said his goal remains the passage of a five-year farm bill, Still, “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 yesterday in a statement.

The one-year extension of the current agriculture-policy law that expires in September was scrapped after Republican leaders realized they didn’t have enough votes for passage, Lucas said.

House Speaker John Boehner earlier had endorsed the extension, which would have pushed back any debate on a new farm 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 extension legislation.

Farm Groups

The Farm Bureau, the 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. They said farmers needed more certainty than a one-year extension would provide.

While the House Agriculture Committee also approved a farm bill, Boehner never scheduled a vote on the measure. Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said earlier this week that the speaker would oppose using an extension as a way to get to a conference with the Senate.

Lucas said the drought assistance bill would provide about $300 million in relief for ranchers and poultry producers whose feed costs soared or whose animals died from the persistent heat. It would also extend aid to apple and citrus growers and producers of farm-raised fish.

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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