Johnson sweats fate of US farm billCrop insurance could be cut, or the bill could stay in limbo for months.
By: Denise Ross, The Daily Republic
South Dakota’s senior senator is worried about the farm bill. A new farm bill is not guaranteed in any so-called fiscal cliff agreement on Capitol Hill, said Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., Wednesday. He said it’s possible that the crop insurance program would be cut if a farm bill were to be rolled into a much broader deficit-reduction agreement.
“I believe the baseline budget is in danger of going down,” Johnson said. “I’m frustrated.”
The Senate passed a farm bill with a bipartisan majority in June, and the House Agriculture Committee later passed a bill that some criticized as too austere in its trimming of food stamp spending and other programs not aimed directly at farmers and ranchers. House leaders have not scheduled a full floor vote on the bill.
Johnson noted Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s growing pessimism on this issue and said he believes tea party Republicans in the House are working to undo any new farm bill and leave the nation without such a policy.
“They have the tea party that’s been unwilling to vote for any farm bill. (House) Speaker John Boehner himself has commented on the lack of support for farm bills,” Johnson said. “We don’t have any trouble passing the farm bill in the Senate. The House is another story.”
A fiscal cliff package is “the only remaining vehicle” to get a farm bill passed this year, Johnson said.
The former bill expired at the end of September, but most of its programs are continuing until March through a temporary budget agreement called a “continuing resolution.”
If no farm bill emerges in a fiscal cliff agreement, Johnson said he is not confident that Congress will complete a standalone bill.
“We have until March to continue with the existing farm bill. What happens then is anybody’s guess,” Johnson said.