Senate Leader Reid Rules Out Extending Current Farm Law

The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives needs to solve its farm bill impasse by enacting the Senate’s bipartisan bill, Majority Leader Harry Reid said on Monday, warning that the Democrat-run Senate will not extend current law again.

The House defeated its own farm bill last week – the first time such a bill has failed in a House vote – and analysts have said a short-term extension of the 2008 farm law would be the easiest solution.

On the Senate floor, Reid said “the Senate will not pass another temporary farm bill extension.”

“If the Speaker (John Boehner) took up the Senate’s bipartisan measure, it would easily pass the House with Republican and Democratic votes.”

A spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said “no decisions have been made on next steps.”

The Senate farm bill, passed on a 66-27 vote on June 10, would save $23 billion over 10 years with $4 billion trimmed from food stamps for the poor. The House bill proposed $40 billion in savings with half of it from food stamps, the largest cut in a generation.

Congress, months late in writing a new farm law, voted at the start of this year to extend the 2008 law until Sept 30. Without action by then, farm supports would revert to the sky-high levels of an underlying “permanent” law.

One of the first effects at the consumer level could be a doubling of the price of milk at the grocery store.

Budget-cutting Republicans and Democratic defenders of food stamps, groups with contradictory goals, combined to defeat the farm bill, 234-195, on Thursday.

Reid said he and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack agreed that farm law reform was essential, which means passing a new law rather than allowing the 2008 law to stay in effect.

“There’s no shame in passing a bill that moderates from both parties can support,” Reid said.

House Republican leaders canceled plans for a vote this week on an Agriculture Department funding bill. One farm lobbyist said it would have been “round two” on the farm bill since it covers the same contentious subjects.

While disagreeing on food stamps, the Senate and House farm bills called for a hefty expansion of the taxpayer-subsidized crop insurance system and streamlining of soil conservation programs. Both set high support rates for peanuts and rice.

Farm bills, written every few years, are panoramic legislation that set terms for crop subsidy, public nutrition, agricultural research, international food aid, rural development and farm export programs.