House leadership released legislative text on the House Rules Committee website of a one year farm bill extension (through FY 2013) with a disaster assistance package on Friday July 27. The legislative text is available here.
The House Rules Committee will meet today, Tuesday July 31 at 5pm EDT; the agenda for the meeting can be found here.
House leadership is trying to secure enough votes to put this package up for a vote this week before members break for the August district work period later this week. As of this afternoon, though, many farm, conservation, and rural development groups have come out against a one-year extension, and most nutrition groups are neutral on the legislative process. The path forward remains uncertain, but it’s increasingly complicated to foresee a scenario that House leadership will have enough votes to advance this package.
There are many reasons why groups and sectors are not supportive of a one-year extension. For example, some are supportive of passing a one-year extension only if House leadership guarantees that it’s a path towards a conference agreement to finish a five-year farm bill this year. At the same time, others reject this path as side-stepping due process and excluding the full House from the opportunity to debate the farm bill on the floor. Further, many rural and conservation groups reject this package as it’s not a clean one-year extension that stunts recent gains for rural farm communities and disadvantaged farmers, while offsetting the cost with cuts to conservation programs and meaningless out-year cuts to the widely unpopular direct payments, which would be unchanged for the length of the extension.
House leadership put forward this package last week after the Speaker held firm in his position that there is no path forward for a farm bill this Congress because of deep partisan divisions, as well as intra-party divisions, which are largely led by conservatives demanding deeper cuts to nutrition and democrats rejecting the proposed cuts as already too deep to support. The House alternative, however, that marries a one-year extension with disaster assistance, would all but guarantee that no more action will be taken on the farm bill this Congress. While many organizations have indicated that they would prefer a five-year farm bill before the end of this Congress, House leadership has made no commitment to find the votes for a comprehensive bill, and the House extension alternative is appearing to not be immune to this struggle as well.
The House is scrambling to demonstrate action has been taken to provide relief to farmers and ranchers suffering from the summer’s drought before members head back to their districts. If House leadership is unable to leverage the pressure to address the drought as a means for also advancing a farm bill solution prior to the programs expiring the end of the fiscal year, the House may opt to advance some form of disaster assistance as stand-alone legislation.
Check back for updates.