SENATE FARM BILL CLOTURE VOTE FAILS
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The farm bill has been stalled in the Senate for more than a week, but senators cast votes Friday morning related to the parameters of the debate. Senators rejected a cloture vote by a margin of 55-42. If at least 60 senators had voted for cloture, they would have forced the scheduling of up to 30 hours of debate on the farm bill on a limited number of amendments.
Another vote to invoke cloture could be scheduled for next month, when senators return from a two-week recess.
In an attempt to put further pressure on the Senate to act, more than 20 House Republicans introduced a one-year extension of the current farm bill on Thursday.
"Without reauthorization, farm policy will revert to permanent statutes established in 1938 and 1949 laws, which are drastically different from current programs.The permanent statutes exclude many commodities, such as rice, soybeans and peanuts; set support prices much higher than current levels; and prevent new enrollment in various conservation programs," the House Republicans stated in a news release.
The American Farm Bureau Federation does not support efforts to extend the current farm bill at this time, but instead supports providing time for the legislative process already under way to work. In addition, the AFBF is concerned that waiting another year to write a farm bill will result in the further reduction of available, budgeted funds. Farm Bureau strongly supports the farm bill already passed by the House.
House Agriculture Committee Chair Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) has said talk of a farm bill extension is premature.
Meanwhile, Acting Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner issued a statement today, urging Congress to deliver a new farm bill despite the Bush administration's threatened veto. "I believe Congress has a responsibility to deliver a new farm bill," Conner's statement read. "The Administration unveiled our comprehensive farm bill proposal nearly 11 months ago for the very purpose of delivering a new farm bill before farmers faced difficult decisions due to uncertainty about future farm policy."
"Farmers themselves asked us to fix the current farm bill, which pays them the most in their best years and offers little or no support when they really need it due to crop loss. Failure to pass a new farm bill would continue a defective safety net," Conner's statement continued. "We heard a strong message from specialty crop growers who simply asked for more equitable support in the form of funding for research and fighting trade barriers. Failure to pass a new farm bill would send specialty crop growers a message that they haven't yet earned more equitable treatment in farm policy."
"There is still time for Congress to pass a new farm bill," the statement said. "The Senate must act quickly to engage in a full and open debate and to deliver a farm bill that contains honest bookkeeping without raising taxes. For more than two years we have talked about the promise and potential of a new farm bill. There are differing views as to the specific provisions, but it is widely recognized and documented in thousands of comments from farmers across the country that farm policy can and should be improved."