Only weeks after the 2012 farm bill talks collapsed amidst a super committee failure, the omnibus legislation could find itself tied to a new Washington initiative. Farm-state legislators, including House Ag Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, have proposed adding the next farm bill to payroll tax and unemployment insurance legislation on Capitol Hill.
The move would once again marry ag program funding to a political hot-potato with potential backing by the Obama Administration. Peterson contends the unlikely legislative marriage would allow $23 billion in agricultural cuts over 10 years to offset costs for immediate unemployment and payroll tax cuts. Agriculture would then be immune from mandatory across-the-board cuts in 2013.
Mandatory spending cuts were triggered by the super committee’s failure to reach a debt reduction compromise in the days preceding Thanksgiving. But Peterson’s new plan to resurrect future agricultural spending concessions to blunt near-term cuts faces an uncertain future.
Congressional Republicans have yet to outline specific terms for a payroll tax cut compromise and many may not want to blur the lines between political party orthodoxy and farm-state affiliation.
Furthermore, congressional agriculture leaders Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Frank Lucas of Oklahoma have yet to publicly sign on to the Peterson plan.
If Peterson’s latest move is any indication, many farm-state lawmakers continue to fear an election year budget ax could wield substantial pain for government farm programs. Peterson conceded this week that a “big, huge floor fight” over agricultural policy may be unavoidable in 2012.
Congressional leaders announced this week the farm bill process will re-start in late January with fresh hearings.