Dems hit House leaders over farm bill expiration

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While the many of effects of the 2008 farm bill's expiration will not be felt until the spring harvest, Stabenow said that dairy prices could be affected sooner. 

"Families across the country cannot afford to see the price of milk skyrocket because the House Republican leadership didn't get its work done. In the next few months, we transition to permanent law, a collection of policies from the 1930s and 1940s that are ill-suited to the way farmers work today," she said.

The House Agriculture Committee this summer passed a five-year bill but House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said there are not a majority of votes in the House to support it. The bill cuts $16 billion from food stamp spending, angering liberals, but contains fewer cuts to farm subsidies than even President Obama had sought, annoying conservatives. 

Boehner said last month that the House will "deal" with the farm bill in the lame duck. GOP leaders contemplated short term extensions of the farm bill but they were opposed by rural Democrats who want to keep the pressure on to pass a five-year bill, such as the Senate bill, which contains expanded crop insurance. 

The GOP passed an extension of disaster aid provisions for farmers before the August recess but the Senate did not take it up.

"The House acted quickly to pass urgent disaster aid for livestock producers and it’s disappointing that Senator Stabenow and other Senate Democrats chose to ignore this bipartisan bill," Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith said. He pointed out that in 2007, when Democrats controlled all of Congress, the farm bill also lapsed temporarily.

The Senate bill has $23 billion in deficit reduction but the cost of a generous crop insurance plan means it does not achieve the $32 billion in 10-year cuts that Obama sought in his budget.

Supporters of the House bill, like Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Colin Peterson (D-Minn.), have said there are enough votes to pass the House bill and House leaders, who have not conducted a formal whip count, just need to call a vote. Peterson has said that an extension is not necessary for most crops as long as a new bill is in place to guide farmers in the spring.

The farm bill is playing a major role in close House races such as in Iowa and the close North Dakota Senate race between Rep. Rick Berg (R-N.D.) and Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, which could tip the balance of power in the Senate.


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