The House on Thursday passed a one-month funding extension for expiring agriculture subsidy programs as lawmakers scramble to draft a five-year farm bill.
The House and Senate each passed five-year farm bills this year, though the versions varied significantly. Negotiators have been meeting behind closed doors for weeks to work out a compromise. But with no deal in place and the House scheduled to wrap up business for the year Friday, the House opted to extend the current farm bill, which is set to expire at the end of the month.
The measure passed by voice vote.
But the bill's fate is uncertain in the Senate, as Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said he is opposed to temporary extensions of the farm bill on grounds it would lessen pressure on negotiators to hammer out a permanent bill.
Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said earlier this week she was confident a five-year deal would be ready in January.
Although many agriculture subsidy programs have broad bipartisan support, a handful of farm bill-related items — particularly the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called the food stamp program — have stalled passage of the five-year farm bill since last year.
Another sticking point is an amendment offered by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, that would prohibit states from establishing certain animal welfare standards for commercial agricultural products — such as eggs or beef — that are produced in one state but sold in another.
California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, this week told congressional leaders that the King amendment, if it became law, would significantly interfere with long-standing states' rights and would "hamper the ability of states to protect their food and natural resources."
Most crop farmers wouldn’t feel a sharp pinch from no farm farm deal — whether long-term or temporary — until the 2014 growing season. But for dairy farmers, who "harvest" their product daily, the adverse effects of having no deal would be felt soon after Jan. 1. Without a deal, farm advocacy groups say the price of a gallon of milk would double within weeks.