Bipartisan Farm Extension Heads to House Floor Next Week

Thursday, July 26, 2012 | 1:04 p.m.

House Republicans began whipping a one-year farm-bill extension on Thursday with a plan to bring the bill—which will include drought aid for livestock and fruit and vegetable farmers—for a vote next week.

Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., said that the short-term option was the most logical way to rush aid to drought-affected farmers and ranchers before the August recess.

“If you’re going to provide certainty out in the drought areas if you’re going to enable an orderly transition from the completion of the regular farm bill, then a one-year makes sense,” he said. He added that leadership was on board for the vote as early as Wednesday.

Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee, initially told National Journal that he would only consider an extension if he had a “face-to-face” promise from House leaders that they would allow that extension to be brought into conference with the Senate-passed bill. Otherwise, such a vote would “poison the well” before conference negotiations, he said.

Later in the day, however, Peterson said he received a call from Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., asking him to pass an extension and saying that she would then call for a conference. Peterson said that after talking to the House parliamentarian, he learned that he would not need House leaders to agree to a conference—that Stabenow’s request would force the issue.

“If the House intends to send us a bill that will be used to negotiate the farm bill during August, I am open to that approach,” Stabenow stated. “However, a short-term extension is bad for farmers and our agricultural economy. If Congress does what Congress always does and kicks the can down the road with a short-term extension, there will be no reform, direct payments will continue, we’ll lose the opportunity for major deficit reduction and we’ll deliver a real blow to our economic recovery.”

Peterson echoed Stabenow’s concerns about a short-term bill.

“If we can pass an extension and use it to get to conference, that might be something I could support,” Peterson said. Until now, Peterson was against a short-term extension.

“It’s pretty clear Republicans can’t get enough votes without me,” he said.

Stabenow other Agriculture Committee members began softening on the idea of a one-year extension on Wednesday. Neither Stabenow nor ranking member Pat Roberts, R-Kan., would dismiss the possibility of a short-term extension.