Conference committee sees progress, but no farm bill vote until 2014

2013-12-17T12:00:00Z 2013-12-17T12:05:22Z Conference committee sees progress, but no farm bill vote until 2014By TOM LUTEY/Billings Gazette
December 17, 2013 12:00 pm  • 

Better make that the 2014 farm bill.

The 2013 farm bill will wait until January for passage, again with the threat of higher milk prices and a return to 1940s farm policy looming.

The bill is occasionally referred to as a “jobs bill” for Montana, where agriculture is the state’s single largest economic sector.

“Really, the final package is something that we’ve had a hand in,” said Lola Raska, Montana Grain Growers executive vice president.

Montana’s grain lobby began pushing for favorable crop insurance terms two years ago as Congress tried to hammer out a bill in budget-cutting talks sparked by a midsummer standoff over the federal debt limit.

That effort stalled and followed by the 2012 farm bill, House Republican leaders wouldn’t bring to a vote in the middle of an election year. Versions of a 2013 farm bill passed the House and Senate this year, but were dramatically different on cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formally known as food stamps. The Democratically controlled Senate proposed cuts of $4 billion to SNAP. The Republican-led House proposed cuts of $42 billion.

Both Senate and House farm bill versions would set spending at $900 billion over 10 years.

However, in the days leading up to Christmas break, lawmakers tasked with reconciling the two farm bills began hinting that SNAP cuts would be more in line with Senate preferences.

U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, a conference committee member, told The Gazette he expects the farm bill to pass in January without another extension. The Senate has passed bipartisan versions of the farm bill two years in a row, which should have been enough.

“There’s no reason we shouldn’t have a Farm Bill signed into law by now,” Baucus said

“That said, the conference committee is very close to an agreement, and I’m optimistic we will have a good deal for Montana in January. Montana jobs are counting on Congress to get the Farm Bill done and I won’t settle for anything less than the long-term bill Montana farmers and ranchers deserve.”

Last week, the House passed an extension to January’s end for the current farm bill, now a year beyond its original expiration date. The extension would allow farm bill conferees to continue working without hitting the “dairy cliff,” a date in mid-January where federal dairy subsidies expire and milk prices are expected to double as a result.

The backstop for the current farm bill is a return to 1949 agriculture policy, in which the federal government set market prices, a condition to which agribusiness doesn’t want to return.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., balked at an extension, saying a farm bill is more likely to pass if there was pressure to do so.

For Montana farmers, a key point in the bill were farm-level triggers for crop-loss compensation. Lawmakers from smaller states had pushed for holding off on crop-loss compensation unless damage reached a high level across an entire county. But in large western states, where counties can stretch 50 to 100 miles, farm groups argued that countywide triggers would be nearly impossible to meet in cases of isolated weather disasters.

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(5) Comments

  1. Miss Perfect
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    Miss Perfect - December 17, 2013 10:35 pm
    Until the ACA......the FARM BILL was the worst abuse of government legislation ever concocted. rural and urban politicians all get together in a big circle and grope each other while singing "Born in the USA."

    Farmers get taxpayer paid benefits.....they get paid for not growing crops, they get subsidized insurance, they get grants, loans and much more.

    There are hundreds of worthless research projects funded, conservation programs (like the SGI - sage grouse inititive) ,forsestry programs etc.

    The chosen few get payments in cash or payment in cotton and rice farmers such those greasy tax dollars right off my back. This is why we find celebrities and professional athletes "Working the farm." for everyone. The few that need it, and the tens of millions that don't. Old MacDonald does not care......those govern dollars look great in his bank account.This president has proved just how dear these food handouts are to the democrats........hungry voters are not happy voters.

    Crop loss protection? Fine.......but I don't want to pay for it. In fact......I don't want to be a farmer at all, but it seems I am forced to because brown nosed liars like Baucus tow the line for BIG MONTANA LANDOWNERS.

    bill is occasionally referred to as a “jobs bill” for Montana, where agriculture is the state’s single largest economic sector.?????????????????????? wHAT A FARCE! While it is the largest economic sector, it does not produce many jobs. But is you are looking for an exciting career at the got the job.......$12/hr and you work sundays.

    Max says: Montana jobs are counting on Congress to get the Farm Bill done ????? Really Max? What jobs are you talking about?

    What has Baucus done for the working man/woman in Montana? Answer: Nothing but sit by while you shop or mill closes down. BUT.....if you are a BIG AG MAN.......MAX id here with a bag full of my money.

    And those alternative fuel subsidies are a big WINNER. Nothing hurts the poor in foreign countries like a US Senate farm subsidy. It forces the market price down and starves millions in 3rd world countries.

    The Farm Bill is in fat a OMNIBUS SPENDING BILL........but we can't use that kind of language here.

  2. Miss Perfect
    Report Abuse
    Miss Perfect - December 17, 2013 10:14 pm go hungry when their parents elect progressives lie you and we find tens of millions drop out of the work force as they give up trying to find work. The liar-in-chief has yet to deliver any economic progress to this country.......but it is not his fault. Progressive economics only serve the chosen few (ie......unions).

    Happy kids have working parents, or better yet, dad has a good job and mom can stay home to nurture the kids........they have options when dad is making good a job at Stone Container.
  3. jus wundrin
    Report Abuse
    jus wundrin - December 17, 2013 4:40 pm
    Can you please provide some evidence of where children are starving in the US?

    Just more progressive fear mongering. Do you want to see real fear painter? Watch this clock for a little while and ask yourself what will happen when this country cant sustain its massive debt anymore. I think your fears of a diminished SNAP program will suddenly disappear.

    BTW, not just the national debt, but the US total debt.
  4. Dubs
    Report Abuse
    Dubs - December 17, 2013 3:55 pm
    So, do you know ONE child that goes hungry? Look around you, mostly chubby kids and chubbier parents. Can you just imagine a government without some R's in office? What would happen if everyone were on full entitlements like North Korea? Who would work, pay the bills, and create jobs---sounds like D heaven to me. By the way, if you do find one hungry kid, I have a suggestion--feed him!
  5. montanamuralist
    Report Abuse
    montanamuralist - December 17, 2013 1:25 pm
    While children go hungry, forget the adults, children, while they go hungry these do nothings in Congress continue to play political games. Mostly the Tea Party and their clown show wanting no government help for anyone at any time. Ridiculous self serving politicians....." we can't give food to the hungry....they are lazy welfare queens." Idiots. Vote anything with an R next to its name out of office in 2014. Selfish and care only for themselves and their pocketbook. The rest of you can starve or just die and get out of the way. Tell me how that is not true??? With a straight face!!! You can't because it is true...get rid of Daines and the rest of these Republican scrooges.
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