House Ag Leaders Recognize Deal to Avert Fiscal Cliff Unlikely to Include Farm Bill

The leaders of the House Agriculture Committee are now saying they will have to work out a new five-year farm bill in 2013. They have conceded they likely won't get a long-term extension of U.S. farm policy attached to a deal to avert tax increases and budget cuts - which means it will be back to the drawing board in late February. Speaking to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce this week - U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack urged Congress to get the farm bill done - while admitting he wasn't very optimistic about the farm bill's prospects. He said the reservations of House Speaker John Boehner had become a stumbling block. The Secretary's message to the Speaker was that the farm bill could easily be linked to - and provide savings for - any fiscal cliff resolution.

Even without a full farm bill - pieces of farm policy could be attached to other legislation before the end of the year. House Ag Chair Frank Lucas had committee staff draft a buffet of legislation of short-term extensions for this type of situation. Ranking Member Collin Peterson - previously opposed to piecemeal extensions of the farm bill - now says he could back a short-term measure to revive expired conservation programs and to prevent a reversion to farm legislation passed in 1949.

In the Senate - lawmakers are looking to add funds for livestock producers devastated by the drought to a disaster relief bill for superstorm Sandy. Reid vowed Thursday that the supplemental spending bill would be passed or abandoned before the night was over. Senate Ag Chair Debbie Stabenow is a co-sponsor of the amendment to provide livestock disaster assistance. She also expressed earlier in the week that she's not giving up on the farm bill - noting Congress would be back next week.

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