Senator says farm bill committee leaders not playing by the rules

Published: January 17 2014 | 7:38 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 2:16 am in

JAN. 14, 2014

As January slips into its second half, promises of a final farm bill during the first few weeks of the new year are quickly fading away.

Delays give time for lawmakers to change parts of the bill. Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley is worried farm bill negotiators will strip out a provision that places limits on payments to farmers, even though it appears in both the House and Senate versions of the bill.

Grassley says reconciling the House and Senate versions of the massive agriculture and nutrition package should not involve fresh debate on provisions both houses agree on. In fact, he quotes a Senate rule that says matters that are included in both Houses’ bills should not be considered for revision by the committee. Yet Grassley says he is hearing that his amendment to put a hard limit on payments to farmers may be holding up negotiations, even though it appears in both versions of the bill.

Grassley said the dairy title also remains a sticking point of the long-overdue farm bill. Still, he says he remains confident a new five year farm bill will get done.

So, should the Senate seriously consider passing an extension provision, as the House did before the holidays? Grassley said if the Senate does take one up, it would be a short-term extension, not a full year extension like the one passed in January 2013.

“It will be a shorter extension because there’s been so much progress,” Grassley said, “especially when you look at the progress that’s been made on food stamps. I think that you’re fairly close.”

Alas, close may be in the eye of the beholder. Until the law is final, no one who depends on it can make definite plans.

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