by Chris Clayton, DTN Ag Policy Editor
OMAHA (DTN) — A farm-bill proposal crafted by House and Senate Agriculture Committees effectively moved to legislative limbo Monday as the so-called supercommittee announced it had failed to reach an agreement to cut federal spending.
The co-chairs of the Select Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction — the supercommittee — released a short statement Monday stating the 12-member committee was at an impasse in its plan to cut $1.2 trillion from the federal budget over 10 years.
“Despite our inability to bridge the committee’s significant differences, we end this process united in our belief that the nation’s fiscal crisis must be addressed and that we cannot leave it for the next generation to solve.”
The failure by the supercommittee effectively scraps a farm-bill proposal that had been negotiated behind closed doors since September. That plan would have trimmed about $23 billion from farm programs.
If lawmakers move into the next phase of across-the-board budget cuts, USDA programs could see a $14-$16 billion cut, based on earlier estimates from members of Congress.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., then released their own joint statement citing that they will continue to move ahead on reauthorizing a farm bill in 2012.
“House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders developed a bipartisan, bicameral proposal for the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction that would save $23 billion. However, the Joint Select Committee’s failure to reach a deal on an overall deficit reduction package effectively ends this effort,” Lucas and Stabenow stated. “We are pleased we were able to work in a bipartisan way with committee members and agriculture stakeholders to generate sound ideas to cut spending by tens of billions while maintaining key priorities to grow the country’s agriculture economy. We will continue the process of reauthorizing the farm bill in the coming months, and will do so with the same bipartisan spirit that has historically defined the work of our committees.”
Details of the farm-bill plan were leaked late last week as House and Senate Agriculture Committee members indicated a deal was close and they were mostly waiting for positive signs from the supercommittee and the Congressional Budget Office.
A farm bill could move as a stand-alone bill, but the closed-door process had angered some lobby groups as well as lawmakers who are not on the agriculture committees. Agricultural leaders had also said that the farm bill would be inserted into the supercommittee budget package specifically to avoid being amended on the House or Senate floor. Now those plans fall by the wayside and agriculture committee members will have to craft a bill that could face more public scrutiny.
Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Pat Roberts, R-Kan., was among the first lawmakers Monday to state that the failure of the supercommittee “means that a farm bill will now be written in regular order as it should be.”
Roberts’ statement also indicated he had been left out of the loop on the farm-bill negotiations. “In recent weeks, the chairs of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees have worked on a farm fill proposal, largely without my input and the input of the other members of the two committees. The last proposal was so ‘secret’ that I still have not seen final legislative language and scores. Significant strides were proposed in crop insurance and conservation programs. However, I had substantial concerns about what little I knew of the direction of the commodity title and the inequitable distribution of spending reductions between commodities, conservation, nutrition and specialty crop programs.”
Roberts also had raised questions about whether a new farm program being created with higher target prices for commodity crops would be compliant with World Trade Organization rules.
“I know that Chairwoman Stabenow and Chairman Lucas have worked hard to put together a recommendation to the Joint Committee. However, this process was not the way to write the farm bill. I call on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry to hold open, public hearings where policy ideas are discussed and debated on their merits, followed by a mark-up that allows input by all committee members. Farm Bills have always been done this way, in a bipartisan manner. I look forward to returning to normal order and writing a bill that is good for all of rural America while being responsible to taxpayers and our WTO obligations.”
Other critics of traditional farm programs had begun a push to stop the “secret” farm bill. National Corn Growers Association President Garry Niemeyer stated in a news release that the group was disappointed the supercommittee could not come to terms. NCGA also thanked House and Senate Agriculture Committee members for their work on the farm bill.
“NCGA will continue to advocate for market-based risk management farm programs that recognize our nation’s difficult financial situation,” Niemeyer said. “As the farm bill process moves into next year, we look forward to working with the House and Senate Agriculture Committees to address the critical challenges facing America’s corn farmers.”
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Posted with DTN Permission by Haylie Shipp