• House leaders have indicated they're in no hurry to pass a new farm bill.
• Officials from Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack to House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas have asked them to reconsider and start the process of helping the nation's farmers through the worst drought in decades.
• If House leaders continue to delay, Congress could be debating a farm bill during Christmas, the way they did in 1996.
A group of congressmen have written House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor urging them to schedule a vote on H.R. 6083, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2012.
That's the official name of the farm bill the House Agriculture Committee reported out by a vote of 35-11 a few days ago.
While half of the nation's corn and soybean crops are burning up from the worst drought conditions in 25 years, and cotton and rice farmers are facing a reduced harvest and low price prospects, House leaders appear to be stalling, trying to avoid a floor vote on the legislation some say would pit Republican "traditionalists" against Tea Party members.
Democratic members of the Agriculture Committee, including the committee's ranking member and former chairman, Collin Peterson, have ridiculed Boehner and Cantor, noting that they had time to schedule yet another vote — the 33rd — on the repeal of the Affordable Health Care Act, but won't take time to debate legislation that could make the difference for the nation's farmers when they begin counting their receipts this fall.
Some have said the vote is not important, that Congress can simply vote to extend the 2008 farm bill before it's scheduled expiration on Sept. 30. The facts are that some important disaster assistance programs have already expired and won't be renewed until a new farm bill passes or Congress votes to reauthorize funding for them. The chances of Congress doing the latter in the current political climate are nil.
As far as avoiding a confrontation, Boehner, who's had more than his share of problems with the Tea Party members in his caucus, should schedule a vote and let the latter show their true feelings for the nation's farmers.
(For a complete rundown on the House leadership being lambasted for farm bill intransigence, click here. Meanwhile, Frank Lucas, (R. Okla.), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, is vowing to do everything he can to complete the farm bill by late September. That story can be found at http://southeastfarmpress.com/government/lucas-vows-do-everything-he-can-complete-farm-bill).