The House Ag Committee is currently scheduled to begin their process (marking up a Committee version of the 2012 Farm Bill) on July 11th. The committee Chairman Frank Lucas (Oklahoma Republican) plus his minority party committee leader Collin Peterson (Minnesota Democrat) both sound optimistic that they can match the bi-partisan Farm Bill success from last week on the Senate floor. This writer is skeptical of such an outcome – mostly due to an observed lack of bi-partisan anything coming from this US House of Representatives.
We also have to deal with “danger” as the House Ag Appropriations measure for 2013 fiscal year is soon slated for floor time in the House. This important cog for 2013 funding is also now apparently delayed until after the 4th of July recess. The “danger” is that House members use the Ag Appropriations measure to try and pass amendments that take money out of designated Agriculture programs and redirect the money to their own preferred project. The Senator Gillibrand (New York Democrat) amendment on the Senate floor last week was a direct shot at crop insurance delivery funds in order to add money back to SNAP (food stamps). This is the “danger”, when Appropriations people or other House members decide that the authorizing committee (Agriculture) is not authorizing or spending money in the manner to which the Appropriators or other House members think best. Without leadership on the House floor, things can get quickly out of hand. The Senate was able to successfully navigate 73 amendments due to Majority Leader Reid (Nevada Democrat) and his actual leadership. The House will struggle should members raise a plethora of non-germane amendments during the Ag Appropriations debate. Speaker Boehner (Ohio Republican) has been quoted that it is difficult to “keep all the frogs in the wheel barrow” as regards key votes in the House. This is also a “prequel” to how any ultimate 2012 Farm Bill debate will cross the US House floor.
It all comes down to a time crunch and election year politicking ahead of the September 30 expiration of the current Farm Bill. Numerous recesses are scheduled such as the month of August and 4th of July. The recess period is used to campaign for re-election in November. A Congress that struggles to do anything when they are in session is certainly not going to make any forward progress when out of town.
At this point, the smart money still thinks that an extension of the current Farm Bill is the most likely outcome for September 30. The House Ag Committee would need mark up their version of the 2012 Farm Bill, get it to the House floor, debate and deal with amendments, pass a final version in the House, name a House and Senate Conference Committee to iron out the many differences, have these conferees agree on a conference report (final version of Farm Bill), House pass the conference report, Senate pass the conference report and finally have President Obama sign the conference report and then we would have a 2012 Farm Bill. This seems like a lot of hurdles to MC and no one involved in getting these things done is allowed to officially start until July 11th at the earliest. We will continue to watch and report.