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House Sets Up Three Options to Extend Farm Programs

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call FIle Photo
Lucas said he is hopeful the farm bill can be extended for one year.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates it would cost $986 million to renew and extend the 2008 farm law for the rest of fiscal 2013, according to a document issued Sunday night.

House leaders have posted such an extension, along with two one-month bills — all unnumbered — and members could consider any one of them as early as Monday.

The longer-term extension also includes nearly $850 million in disaster aid, and would fund a series of expired programs by trimming projected spending on direct payments by $1.3 billion over 10 years.

The CBO said that direct payments scheduled to be issued in October — the start of fiscal 2014 — would be trimmed to 82.5 percent of costs and account for a savings of $146 million in outlays.

The extension through the remainder of fiscal 2013 also would include several “orphan” programs that were in the 2008 farm bill (PL 110-246) but which lost their mandatory funding.

Leaders may be testing the political waters by floating the options to see which one could garner the votes to pass. All three would put on hold a return to 1949 permanent law, delaying the so-called dairy cliff that is set to occur Jan. 1. If Congress does not extend 2008 law or address the issue in some way, the cost of dairy price supports would double, raising the possibility that milk prices eventually could increase to $8 a gallon.

“Clearly, it is no longer possible to enact a five-year farm bill in this Congress,” House Agriculture Chairman Frank D. Lucas, R-Okla., said in a statement. “Given this reality, the responsible thing to do — and the course of action I have long encouraged if a five-year bill was not possible — is to extend the 2008 legislation for one year. This provides certainty to our producers and critical disaster assistance to those affected by record drought conditions.”

The one-year version actually would run through the remaining nine months of fiscal 2013 and represents an agreement among the House and Senate farm bill writers, according to Debbie Stabenow, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

She said that measure would include an extension of the direct payment program in the 2008 law.

Until now, Stabenow, D-Mich., has steadfastly opposed an extension of current law, pressing instead for enactment of a new, five-year measure that would change the direction of agriculture support programs. But as the year draws to a close, Stabenow says it has become clear that her goal will not be reached in time to avoid the impending disruptions to the dairy market that would occur if 1949 law goes into effect.

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