Congressional To-Do List Looms Large

With Congress having adjourned until after the 2012 election, their to-do list for the lame duck session at the end of the year is a daunting one, with the 2012 Farm Bill just one of several major bills that needs passing.

For the past year, rural lawmakers and farm advocacy groups have pushed the House and Senate to pass a five-year farm bill. The partisan gridlock had led many in Washington to believe that passing a new farm bill was all but impossible and that Congress would have to rely on a one year extension to hold over farmers until a new bill was passed.

Even with the general atmosphere of pessimism, Congress made significant progress on the bill this summer. The Senate passed a bipartisan bill that trimmed farm spending by more than $24 billion and expanded crop insurance programs. The House Agriculture Committee passed their own draft of the farm bill in July and many in Washington believed that a new bill could be passed by the House, reconciled between the House and Senate, and signed into law by the president.

With Speaker Boehner keeping the farm bill off the House floor, however, the bill won’t be passed until November at the earliest, leaving American farmers facing the expiration of the farm bill for the first time in years.

While about 75 percent of farm programs are funded through March, there is no guarantee that Congress will find itself spurred to challenge partisan gridlock and pass a new bill in the lame duck session. The to-do list for Congress is already long and many farmers fear that passing a new five-year bill (or even passing a temporary extension of the current bill) could be sabotaged by lawmakers with partisan interests.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer