Posted September 16, 2013
 
Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, has “very, very, very strong objections” to another extension of the current farm bill, according to a Politico article, available here.  Vilsack said that an extension would “reward” Congress for “continued failure.”  The current farm bill, which is an extension adopted after the last Congress failed to enact a farm bill, expires on September 30. 
 
Vilsack did not mention a veto, but Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) and ranking Democrat on the house Agriculture Committee, “said a veto strategy is in play.”  Peterson told Politico that if “there is an extension, they [the Obama administration] are going to veto it” because “they believe that’s the only way they can force us to do a bill.”
 
Peterson doubts that Congress can pass a comprehensive farm bill, saying that the House Republican leadership is “not doing what needs to be done.” 
 
Peterson called Secretary Vilsack and suggested that USDA begin the process of implementing the 1949-era dairy policies that would take effect on October 1, if Congress fails to pass a farm bill, according to an article by The Hill, available here
 
The 1949 law requires the Agriculture Department to price milk at a floor of about $39 per 100 pounds, which “would lead milk prices to roughly double at today’s rates.”
 
Peterson’s strategy is not to double milk prices, “but to rouse the affected industry groups,” particularly the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), into pressuring Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and other GOP leaders to act.
 
Congress continues its struggle to pass a long-term reauthorization of the farm bill.  The Senate passed a five-year reauthorization bill with bipartisan support, 66-27, in June.  House GOP Leaders “declined to consider it, arguing that the $4.1 billion cut in food stamps was not large enough to satisfy their conservative conference.”  The House divided the bill, passing a farm policy portion in July “with no democratic support and GOP leaders” plan to vote this month on a nutrition bill expected to cut about $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

 

Democratic leaders warn that a “cut of that size” has “no chance of passing in the democratically controlled Senate” leaving little room for compromise.   Peterson believes that his milk strategy “can compel” a deal.
 
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