While the farm bill remains his priority, said Lucas, “most pressing business before us is to provide disaster assistance to those producers impacted by the drought conditions who are currently exposed. It is as simple as that: there is a problem out there, let’s fix it.”

In his floor remarks, Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, had a blistering assessment of Boehner and Cantor. He laid out the timeline for the House farm bill and how the chamber had settled instead on disaster legislation.

“(Lucas) and I were ready to mark-up our bill at the end of June, but the Republican Leadership stepped in and said they wanted to consider the agriculture appropriations bill first. So, we held off to participate in the agriculture appropriations debate, which the leadership ultimately didn’t even bring to the floor. This delayed the committee’s mark-up by two weeks.

“The committee completed our work on July 11, passing a new five-year farm bill on a 35-11 bipartisan vote. Rather than bringing this bill to the floor the House has instead focused on messaging bills that are going nowhere.

“Now, I understand this is an election year and the majority wants to promote their message; I’ve even voted for some of these bills. But you would think that after delaying us by two weeks the leadership could have found two days on the House calendar to consider the committee’s farm bill before the August recess.

“Instead of bringing up the five-year farm bill the Republican Leadership last week put forward a one-year farm bill extension, hoping to delay action until the next Congress with hopes to dismantle the farm and food safety nets. Fortunately, under intense opposition from those in agriculture, the leadership had to pull the bill.”

As for the livestock disaster legislation, said Peterson, “providing assistance to livestock producers — primarily cattle and sheep — is necessary and important, but this is not a comprehensive disaster package. Dairy and specialty crop producers will be left hurting and there is no assistance for pork and poultry producers.

“The (House) Agriculture Committee’s farm bill not only includes the livestock provisions we’re considering today, it also strengthens the farm safety net for a wide range of commodities. A five-year farm bill will do a better job of providing certainty for American agriculture and assistance during this period of drought.”

Following the disaster bill passing, Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, lamented the inability of the House to pass a new farm bill.

“It’s deeply troubling that the House would leave farmers and small businesses in the lurch at a time when our agriculture economy is vulnerable and facing incredible uncertainty,” said Stabenow.

“A five-year farm bill not only provides the immediate relief producers need to battle drought and disaster, it also gives farmers the long-term certainty and additional tools they need to keep growing and creating jobs over the long-term.

“By refusing to bring up the farm bill, House leadership is doing what Congress always does — kicking the can down the road instead of coming together to solve problems. If Congress does not pass a farm bill, there will be no reform, direct payments will continue, we’ll lose the opportunity for major deficit reduction and we’ll deliver a real blow to our economic recovery."

dbennett@farmpress.com