Surprise! Farm Bill Talks Delayed Until After the Mid-term Elections

With less than four days for Congress to pass a new farm bill before the current law expires after Sunday, top ag lawmakers now readily admit they’ll likely have to finish their work after the Nov. 6 midterm elections.

That timing isn’t surprising – there’s been more sniping among House and Senate negotiators than there’s been signs of progress over the last month. But failure to meet the Sept. 30 deadline would still be a defeat for ag leaders who said they were determined to finish a new farm bill on time and provide some needed certainty to farmers and ranchers.

Hoping for better luck in November: Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said he hopes negotiators will make enough progress to vote on a final farm bill, H.R. 2 (115), the first week after the election, Politico’s Helena Bottemiller Evich and Catherine Boudreau reported Wednesday night.

Waiting until the lame duck is a gamble – political leverage would shift significantly if Republicans lose the House or Senate. Some farm bill conferees are warning that waiting until November will add a whole new level of complexity to the negotiations. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) said Wednesday there “may not be a political will to get it done” after the midterms, as your host wrote on Wednesday.

Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, top Democrat on the House Ag panel, says he’s not interested in writing a new farm bill if Democrats sweep into the House majority and he takes over the gavel from Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas). “I want it done now, and Roberts wants it done now. We’re not the ones holding this up,” Peterson told POLITICO this week.

A long to-do list: Not a single farm bill title had been finalized as of Wednesday, Conaway said. And it’s not just the well documented standoff over stricter work requirements for millions of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients that’s bogging down the talks. Issues like commodity and energy policy, and how to pay for various proposals, are also to blame.

Source: AgriMarketing

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