Delay Of 2012 Farm Bill Sets Off Political Battle

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House Republican leaders want to delay consideration of the 2012 Farm bill until next year and that has set off a political battle in Washington. The plan would delay key reforms in dairy pricing programs.

Passing a 5 year farm bill is often difficult because different commodity groups fight for the best deal that they can get for their crops.

But there’s a new wrinkle to the debate this year because the bill is being drafted to reduce spending by billion of dollars over the next 10 years and a group of House Republican members is holding out for even deeper cuts.

As a compromise, GOP leaders are considering a one year extension of the current law – effectively pushing off consideration of the 5 year plan until 2013.

Congressman Peter Welch is a member of the House Agriculture committee and he thinks the one year extension is a terrible idea.

"Never in the history of the House has a bill passed by the House Agriculture committee on a Farm Bill extension not been brought to the floor," said Welch. " So it’s a hard job but Congress can’t use an excuse to avoid doing its job that’s it’s difficult."

Legislation passed by the Senate and the House Agriculture committee both include a new plan that’s designed to stabilize dairy prices. Welch says this approach will be lost if the one year extension is approved.

"It would basically mean that the dairy stabilization plan that our farmers championed and would provide more stable pricing for our farmers and less cost to our taxpayers would be abandoned."

Amanda St. Pierre is a dairy farmer in Franklin County and has played a key role in developing the new pricing system. She says passing a one year extension is like "treading water in a hurricane."

"We have farmers who are facing the highest grain prices they’ve ever seen and it doesn’t look like that’s going to slow down," said St. Pierre. "The margins between the price of milk and what we’re making and the price of grain all that the margins are so out of whack that this one year extension really doesn’t touch any of these problems that we are now facing."

St. Pierre is hoping that the House will reject the one year extension and then make some hard decisions on the five year plan.

"Maybe if they don’t use this as a band aid – the one year extension – it will get them around a table where they’ll have to put some politics aside and really make some leadership decisions."

House leaders are expected to make a decision about this issue before their August recess begins on Friday.



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