The leadership of the U.S. House has apparently decided to kick the farm bill can down the road and not to move forward with a vote on five-year farm legislation before the August recess, but will instead consider a separate disaster bill that reinstates livestock disaster programs that expired in 2011 to help producers impacted by the severe drought conditions.
A coalition of agricultural organizations is urging the House to reconsider and vote on the bill from the House Agriculture Committee. The organizations include the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Corn Growers Association, and ten other general farm and commodity groups.
“We are disappointed that the House Republican leadership has decided to not move forward with the House Agriculture Committee’s bill before adjourning for the August recess. That bill would provide the disaster relief our farm and ranch families need at this time,” said a statement from the groups. “We do not oppose passage of a disaster assistance bill, but note that almost identical provisions to retroactively extend these four programs are included in the Senate-passed farm bill and the bill reported by the House Agriculture Committee. Those measures would likely be included in any conference committee report. It is imperative that we pass a comprehensive, long-term farm bill.”
Specifically, the disaster bill in the House would retroactively extend the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), the Livestock Forage Program (LFP), the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program (ELAP) and the Tree Assistance Program (TAP) so that producers are helped for Fiscal Year 2012. All of those programs expired in 2011. Offsets to pay for the disaster assistance would come from imposing caps on two conservation programs, the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). The groups point out that the bill “potentially costs more than $600 million and would only provide relief to livestock producers a month or two earlier than a farm bill debated and passed in September.”
The House scrapped plans to vote on a one-year extension of the current farm bill when it became clear that the votes for passage were not there. Senate leadership meanwhile has indicated it will not consider stand-alone disaster aid legislation in an effort to force a vote on a five-year bill.