AGRIBUSINESS: Farm Bill Unlikely

It’s highly unlikely that Congress and President Obama will come up with a fiscal cliff bill to deal with the national deficit, and even more unlikely a farm bill will be included.

However, House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson says he is not worried about a bill being passed before next year. With a failed plan by Speaker of the House John Boehner last week, there’s no clear plan for the Senate and President Obama. The House has already adjourned, but Senators will return to Capitol Hill on Thursday, leaving four work days before the end of the year and the end of the 112th Congress. If the House is needed back, Boehner says he will reconvene, but the House Ag Committee and Senate Ag Committee-passed farm bills will die in less than a week without any action, and that brings even more problems.

Because each new farm bill merely staves off the 1949 permanent law, failing to enact a new farm bill can have draconian effects, the first of which is a reversion to the 1949 support price for milk. Based on that fact, Senate Ag Chair Debbie Stabenow says a fiscal cliff deal needs to be passed with a farm bill attached. Peterson objects to the term going over the cliff because in his words, if everything expires, nothing dramatic happens. Taxpayers’ withholding will increase a bit, according to Peterson, but the sequestration cuts don’t immediately go into effect. Even though the U.S. Department of Agriculture has to implement the 1949 law on January 1 without a new or extended bill, Peterson notes some economists have said it shouldn’t affect dairy prices until May or June.

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