SALEM, Ohio — Last week’s ballots weren’t even tallied before the conversation switched to the fate of the next farm bill.
The current bill stalled in the House in October, even though the Senate version passed with bipartisan support in June and the House Ag Committee approved its measure in July.
“The election is over so it’s time to get to work,” said House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin C. Peterson, D-Minn., in a statement to media. “I’m optimistic that, if given the chance, we have the votes to pass a five-year farm bill.”
He expects a vote could happen any day, and encourages swift action.
“There is no good reason not to vote on the bill when we return [Nov. 13], before Thanksgiving,” he said. “This will give us the time we need to work out our differences with the Senate and get a new five-year farm bill signed into law by the end of the year.”
Calls to House Speaker John Boehner’s office were unreturned at presstime.
Boehner, R-Ohio, said in September the House would not vote on the bill until after the elections.
“When we get back after the election, we will consult with our members and develop a pathway forward,” he said, adding “it is too early to determine right now what kind of mood members are going to be in and what kind of opinions they are going to have.”
Carl Zulauf, farm policy expert with Ohio State University, said he sees two likely scenarios.
One is for the House to consider passing the current bill and confer it with the Senate, before the end of the lame duck session, or before Christmas.
The second option is an extension of the farm bill that expired Sept. 30. Zulauf said it would likely be for a one-year period, but could differ.
A big factor could be the debate over “fiscal cliff,” a term that defines several laws, which, if unchanged are expected to cause an increase in taxes due to the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts, and a decrease in government spending.
Zulauf said Congress can take quick action on the bill, if it wants.
“I learned a long time ago Congress can move relatively fast,” he said. “In fact, it can surprise you how fast it can move if the will is there to do it.”
But he’s still not sure whether it will most likely be a long-term bill, or a temporary deal.
“I’ve always believed that there are times when you just have to be on the Hill,” he said, adding this is one of those.
The American Farm Bureau Federation issued a statement congratulating President Barack Obama on his re-election, saying, “we (farmers and ranchers) cannot wait until 2013 for the action to start. Serious work on the farm bill, the fiscal cliff and critical tax policy fixes all must start during the lame duck session of the 112th Congress.”
(Reporter Chris Kick can be reached at 330-403-9477, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.)