Senators scrounge for way to pay for drought bill

The new bill would also extend the expired Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments (SURE) program, which augments crop insurance for farmers.

The Senate passed a farm bill in a 64-35 vote last month that replaces SURE with more generous crop insurance and extended livestock relief. 

The House Agriculture Committee passed its bill in a 35 to 11 vote, but House leaders have shown no sign of bringing the bill to the floor.

Lobbyists and aides remained downbeat on the possibility of the House bill moving on Monday and expect a House emergency disaster relief companion bill to be introduced soon if the farm bill remains blocked.

House Republicans in favor of the farm bill, which shaves $35 billion off the deficit over ten years, have been citing the drought as a reason to move on the bill. Fiscal conservatives are opposed to the bill's spending level while liberals are objecting to its $16.5 billion in cuts to food stamps.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has been imploring Congress to act on the farm bill to address the drought. On Monday he announced USDA will grant ranchers greater flexibility to use land reserved for conservation.