U.S. farm law expires again with lawmakers split on new bill

WASHINGTON Tue Oct 1, 2013 5:50pm EDT

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack listens to a question during a press briefing about the drought in the midwest at the White House in Washington July 18, 2012. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack listens to a question during a press briefing about the drought in the midwest at the White House in Washington July 18, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Overshadowed by the government shutdown, the U.S. farm subsidy law expired for the second time on Tuesday with lawmakers still deadlocked over how to confront cuts in food assistance programs for low-income Americans.

Analysts say Congress is more likely to revive the farm law for another year or two, the path it took when the law expired a year ago, than agree on a new bill

"They don't even have the process in place to get it done," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a speech on Tuesday to United Fresh, a trade group for produce growers and processors.

The Democratic-run Senate has proposed $4.5 billion in loophole-closing for food stamps. The Republican-controlled House wants to cut $40 billion over 10 years through tighter eligibility rules that would disqualify 4 million people.

With expiration, the Agriculture Department lost authority to run agricultural export, global food aid, livestock disaster relief and some conservation programs. Crop subsidies, crop insurance and food stamps, the big-ticket programs, are permanently authorized and remain in business.

Congress took two procedural steps in the past four days toward negotiations on a final version of the farm bill, but the Republican-controlled House must name its negotiators before talks can begin.

The new five-year farm bill could cost $500 billion with food stamps accounting for three-quarters of the spending.

On Tuesday, the Senate formally asked the House for a "conference" on the farm bill and appointed the same 12 negotiators it named in August. The re-appointments were necessary because the House merged separate farm subsidy and food stamp bills into one bill over the weekend.

Named as Senate conferees were Agriculture Committee chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, Michigan Democrat, and Thad Cochran of Mississippi, the Republican leader on the panel.

Besides Stabenow, the Democratic conferees are Pat Leahy of Vermont, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Max Baucus of Montana, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Michael Bennet of Colorado. Along with Cochran, the Republican conferees are Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Pat Roberts of Kansas, John Boozman of Arkansas and John Hoeven of North Dakota.

Under congressional protocol, Frank Lucas, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, would preside over the negotiations. A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said the issue of naming conferees was under discussion, but there were no final decisions so far.

(Reporting by Charles Abbott and Richard Cowan. Editing by Ros Krasny and Andre Grenon)

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Comments (5)
Speaker2 wrote:
So the Republicans want to cut 40-billion in food stamps, a program largely used by working poor and single-parent families. But still want to give billions to large corporate farms.

What is even more funny is Red States have the highest percentage of Food Stamp use. Too bad these voters are voting against their self-interest or not voting at all.

Percentage of population on Food Stamps.

MISSISSIPPI 22.10
NEW MEXICO 21.00
OREGON 20.90
LOUISIANA 20.60
TENNESSEE 20.40
KENTUCKY 19.40
GEORGIA 19.30
MAINE 19.00
ALABAMA 18.90

Oct 01, 2013 6:19pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
AlkalineState wrote:
If farms and ranches are a private business…. why do they have to be subsidized by taxpayers? The usual knee-jerk answer is… ‘well people gotta eat.’ So should we subsidize building contractors with a federal program because…. ‘people gotta have shelter.’ Well, that is not being done. Because it’s a stupid idea. Just as farm subsidies in 2013 are a stupid idea.

Oklahoma, Texas, Idaho…. we’re talking to you. We know you vote for farm subsidies, red states.

Oct 01, 2013 6:34pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Eideard wrote:
New Mexico ain’t a Red State.

Having a Republican governor happens once every 12-16 years when folks refuse to vote for yet another hereditary hand-picked candidate from the Dems. They last 1 or 2 terms and then the Dems wise up.

The Roundhouse is Dems + phony Dems + Republicans + a couple Tea Party idjits.

Oct 01, 2013 8:09pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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