House leaders try to move three-month extension of farm bill

House Republican leaders may be falling short Friday in their effort to whip up support for a three-month farm bill.

If GOP leaders win support for the stopgap bill, it would come up for a vote next week before the current 2008 farm bill expires on Sept. 30. 

Rep. Colin Peterson (D-Minn.), the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Commitee, predicted the effort would fail. 

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"They can try to move it but I don't think they will. They don't have the votes," Peterson said.

Pressed if the votes would be there for the short-term bill, Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) said he has not seen the whip count. 

House leaders have been unwilling to take up the House Agriculture Committee’s five-year farm bill despite pressure from Lucas. 

“The leadership would like to know if an extension through the end of the calendar year is the way to go,” Lucas said. “That was what was whipped today.”

House leaders had to pull a one-year farm bill extension from the floor this summer due to lack of support.

Lucas said that the short-term bill, which would extend the 2008 legislation by three months, would include disaster aid to help livestock producers whose programs expired in 2011 and who have been hurt by the record drought.

Peterson said he and other rural Democrats will oppose the three month bill. He said the short-term bill is not necessary since most farm safety net payments will not be needed until the spring. While there will lapse in support for dairy farmers, he said the payment lost will be very small. 

Peterson said Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) will also oppose the three month bill.

“The Senate is not going to take this up,” he said.

Sixty senators and representatives with large dairy farm sectors in their districts wrote to leaders on Friday urging either passage of a full farm bill or a short-term farm bill including an extension of dairy programs.

Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Reps. Reed Ribble (R-Wis.) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) led the letter.

Welch and Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) met on Friday with Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) to press for action on the farm bill before the election.

Welch told The Hill the meeting was “inconclusive.” He said he pushed Cantor for an up-or-down vote on the five-year measure but that Cantor said he didn’t know if that was “doable.”
 
During his weekly colloquy with Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on the House floor, Cantor said Republicans were still looking for “a way forward” on the five year farm bill but gave no commitment on a vote.

Russell Berman contributed.