Citing drought, lawmakers seek action on farm bill

Posted: July 20, 2012

WASHINGTON - As record drought conditions continue to plague farmers and send corn prices higher, some lawmakers are pressing House leaders to bring the now-stalled farm bill to the floor.

The House Agriculture Committee approved the once-every-five-years legislation earlier this month, but there have been indications that House leaders wouldn't bring the legislation to the floor before the election. House Speaker John A. Boehner (R., Ohio) dislikes key parts of the bill, and many members of his party object to its massive farm subsidies. The bill also cuts $16 billion from food stamp programs, which is sure to spark a bitter battle with Democrats.

But as dry weather continues to hurt farmers, some say the bill can't wait. Led by Reps. Kristi Noem (R., S.D.) and Peter Welch (D., Vt.), a bipartisan group of 38 Republicans and 24 Democrats sent a letter Thursday requesting that House leaders "make this legislation a priority."

Both the House bill and a bill passed by the Senate earlier this year contain beefed-up crop insurance programs that would protect farmers from losses such as those being caused by the drought conditions.

"What do we do? We need to pass a farm bill," Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, said Thursday morning in an appearance on MSNBC.

"The speaker needs to bring it up on the floor," Stabenow said. "And frankly, we need to add some additional disaster assistance for 2012 as part of that. But we've got to get this done."

The bill that passed the Senate in May contains many of the controversial subsidies and cuts food stamps by $4.5 billion. The chamber has been waiting for the House to act on its version of the legislation before the two chambers meet to craft a compromise bill.

Stabenow said the Senate is unwilling to accept the deeper cuts to food stamps contained in the House bill, but that it might be possible to meet "in the middle."

"If the House gives us a bill, we'll negotiate," Stabenow said. "We'll come together in the middle. . . . But the House has to act so we can do that."

Boehner said last week that there were "no decisions about [the bill] coming to the floor at this point."

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