The passage of a new farm bill this year isn’t likely, a spokeswoman for Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., confirmed on Wednesday.
Bennet’s press secretary, Kristin Lynch, said in an email that “given the House calendar, it looks like an agreement on the farm bill may not be reached until early January.”
She added, though, that Bennet believes the House should stay in through next week to get a deal done, because a deal is close.
Lynch’s statement echoed other reports coming out of Washington on Tuesday and Wednesday, as members of the Farm Bill Conference Committee — which includes Bennet — emerged from negotiations and announced they won’t have a full farm bill ready before the House adjourns for the year on Friday.
According to reports, Rep. Frank Lucas, the Republican chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, told Politico that he would file a bill that extends the farm bill through January 2014, to prevent some programs in the existing farm bill from expiring at the end of the year.
The lack of farm bill passage is nothing new.
The current farm bill, passed in 2008, was set to expire on Sept. 30, 2012, but has been extended since then, because lawmakers can’t agree on a new one. Both the House and Senate have passed versions of new farm bill legislation, but haven’t hashed out the differences between the two in a conference committee.
Among the hottest topics are cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, which account for about 80 percent of the farm bill.
The Republican-controlled House passed a bill that would cut food stamps by $39 billion out of a projected $800 billion over 10 years. In addition, the House SNAP provision would require able-bodied adults without children to work or volunteer for 20 hours a week to receive federal assistance.
The Democratic-held Senate’s farm bill also would cut food stamps, but by $4.5 billion over a decade, and the Senate plan wouldn’t add work requirements.
The disputes and inability to pass a new farm bill has been a major source of frustration to many in the agriculture industry, who say much has changed in agriculture since the last farm bill was passed in 2008, and the programs in the current farm bill don’t address the needs of the industry. New programs are needed, they stress.