With members of Congress back in session for a lame duck session, the future of the stalled farm bill remains uncertain. It’s possible the bill, which includes $35 billion in savings over 10 years, could surface as part of the bigger deal known as the fiscal cliff.
More than 200 agriculture, rural, conservation and energy groups wrote top House leaders from both parties recently urging the bill be considered and completed as soon as possible.
Senator Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan and chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Representative Frank D. Lucas, Republican of Oklahoma and chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, are trying to persuade administration and Congressional leaders to include the measure in negotiations that are seeking to avoid more than $500 billion in tax increases and more than $100 billion in automatic spending cuts that would go into effect next year. Both lawmakers have sponsored versions of a farm bill with steep spending cuts that would help with deficit reduction, they said.
While the Obama administration has not decided whether to include the bill in its talks with Congress, officials have indicated that they would be open to overhauling some farm programs to narrow the deficit.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently urged Congress to pass the bill, saying the department “would do everything we can” to implement a new farm bill in time for the 2013 harvest next fall.