“I don’t see a path forward to do a new farm bill before Jan. 3 when the new Congress convenes. One would like to think lightening will strike and there will at least be an extension (of the 2008 farm bill). The (agriculture) committee leadership in the House and Senate has been working very hard to come to an understanding.

“But, right now, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in Washington who’ll tell you there is a plan (going forward) or what that plan is. That’s true for either the farm bill or the other issues.”

If a similar impasse had existed a decade ago, Clark would have had, “all the confidence that Congress would find a way to get at least an extension done. When I worked on the Hill 20 years ago and there was a problem the vast majority of the members of Congress felt an innate responsibility to address that problem. Even if they disagreed with some of the final legislation they would, at some point, accept reality and vote no — but let the process go forward.”

In contrast, “now there are a number of lawmakers in the House and Senate whose first inclination is often, ‘let’s do nothing.’ That completely changes the calculus. … It’s very difficult to handicap the chances of finding (a fiscal cliff agreement). Again, 10 years ago, cooler heads would’ve prevailed. Not now.”

Following Boehner’s inability to garner enough Republican votes for his fiscal cliff plan, Clark believes Democrats might back off dismissals of the Speaker’s late-summer claims that he didn’t have enough votes to pass a new farm bill.

“Speaker Boehner was quoted that the reason for no farm bill being on the schedule was because he didn’t have the votes. At the time, some people didn’t think that was true, that it could be worked out. But fast-forward to what happened (Dec. 20) and it turns out Boehner may have been right.”

With about a week left in the lame duck session, National Farmers Union board members have let Congress know it opposes an extension of the 2008 farm bill for multiple reasons.

“It will be more difficult to negotiate an extension than it would be to negotiate one of the five-year farm bills — either the one passed out of the Senate or the one passed by the House Agriculture Committee,” says Goule.

“We also don’t want to relieve the pressure supplied by the threat of enactment of permanent law. That can’t be taken away. It’s pushed Congress for decades to provide a farm bill, to provide credit, certainty, a farm safety net and to keep food costs low for consumers.

“If that pressure is taken away, and we extend the current farm bill — which will take $10 billion, or more, out of the baseline — we’ll lose 37 programs and get an even lower (Congressional Budget Office) baseline in March of 2013. It will be so hard to write a farm bill (in 2013). I don’t know if there will be enough money to fund all the titles. That would be devastating. I know there will be the will and the talent on the agriculture committees to write a new farm bill (in 2013) but will there be enough money to cover it?”