WASHINGTON — U.S. farmers who have already endured the most catastrophic drought in decades now face another looming problem: Congress.
Congress has until Sept. 30 to renew its farm bill — the federal legislation that authorizes farm programs as well as food stamps and other nutrition programs. But in reality, Congress has less than a week in actual legislative days to do so, a tight timeline even in non-election years.
Lawmakers say it is likely Congress will end up passing a one-year temporary reauthorization of the current bill, but farm organizations, as well as Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, say such a temporary measure is insufficient, and could put farm programs more at risk of damaging mandatory cuts created by last year’s Budget Control Act.
“It’s a very uncertain situation, and it doesn’t have to be,” said Vilsack. He theorizes that House leadership is balking on bringing the bill to the floor because they’d like to see deeper cuts to both nutrition assistance programs and to commodity crop insurance.
The full Senate and the House Agriculture passed versions of the farm bill earlier this summer, with the Senate’s bill costing around $970 billion and the House bill costing about $958 billion. Both were considered bipartisan measures — typical for farm bills, farm groups say.
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