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Farm bill on the lame duck agenda

WASHINGTON -- Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said the House will vote on a stalled farm bill during the lame duck session, the first indication the issue is on the House Republicans’ crowded agenda for congressional action after the election.

Rep. Cantor appeared at a Boise, ID, campaign event for Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID), where he explained that the House delayed action on the farm policy legislation because it didn’t have the votes on the floor, according to the Oct. 24 Idaho Statesman.

"I'm committed to bring the issue to the floor and then to see a way forward so we can get the votes to pass [a farm bill]," Rep. Cantor was quoted as saying.

The news sent Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) to fire off a press release saying she was pleased the House would be voting on a reauthorized farm bill.

"I'm very pleased to hear that Majority Leader Cantor is now committed to bring the farm bill to the floor immediately after the election,” she said Oct. 25. “America's farmers, ranchers, small businesses and 16 million Americans employed in agriculture desperately need the certainty and disaster relief the farm bill provides.”

Sen. Stabenow said the Senate passed a bipartisan farm bill with reforms to farm programs and $23 billion in spending cuts in June, but the House leadership delayed taking up a House Agriculture Committee-passed bill before Congress recessed. The biggest sticking point has been the proposed cuts to the food stamp program. The 2008 farm bill expired Sept. 30, although some programs continue through the harvest year.

“I hope our colleagues in the House of Representatives will follow that lead with a bipartisan approach to this legislation,” she said. “It is critical that we are able to finalize the farm bill before the beginning of next year when farm programs begin to expire, which would impact milk and food prices for families.”

Another issue on Congress’ agenda will affect agriculture programs. Congress will be looking at 8 percent spending cuts across the board for all federal programs in 2013 if lawmakers cannot agree on a plan to avert the so-called fiscal cliff.

Specialty crop producers have been lobbying Congress to reauthorize the farm bill this year, rather than start again with a new Congress and negotiate funding for programs in a much tighter budgetary climate next year.