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

Reuters

* Food stamps are defining issue for farm bill

* Analysts say another extension is likely

* Senate re-appoints 12 farm bill negotiators

By Charles Abbott

WASHINGTON, Oct 1 (Reuters) - Overshadowed by the governmentshutdown, the U.S. farm subsidy law expired for the second timeon Tuesday with lawmakers still deadlocked over how to confrontcuts in food assistance programs for low-income Americans.

Analysts say Congress is more likely to revive the farm lawfor another year or two, the path it took when the law expired ayear 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 toUnited Fresh, a trade group for produce growers and processors.

The Democratic-run Senate has proposed $4.5 billion inloophole-closing for food stamps. The Republican-controlledHouse wants to cut $40 billion over 10 years through tightereligibility rules that would disqualify 4 million people.

With expiration, the Agriculture Department lost authorityto run agricultural export, global food aid, livestock disasterrelief and some conservation programs. Crop subsidies, cropinsurance and food stamps, the big-ticket programs, arepermanently authorized and remain in business.

Congress took two procedural steps in the past four daystoward negotiations on a final version of the farm bill, but theRepublican-controlled House must name its negotiators beforetalks can begin.

The new five-year farm bill could cost $500 billion withfood 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 12negotiators it named in August. The re-appointments werenecessary because the House merged separate farm subsidy andfood stamp bills into one bill over the weekend.

Named as Senate conferees were Agriculture Committeechairwoman Debbie Stabenow, Michigan Democrat, and Thad Cochranof Mississippi, the Republican leader on the panel.

Besides Stabenow, the Democratic conferees are Pat Leahy ofVermont, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Max Baucus of Montana, SherrodBrown of Ohio, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Michael Bennet ofColorado. Along with Cochran, the Republican conferees are SaxbyChambliss of Georgia, Pat Roberts of Kansas, John Boozman ofArkansas and John Hoeven of North Dakota.

Under congressional protocol, Frank Lucas, chairman of theHouse Agriculture Committee, would preside over thenegotiations. A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner saidthe issue of naming conferees was under discussion, but therewere no final decisions so far.

Rates

View Comments (2)