Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa is disappointed that the U.S. House failed to act on a five-year farm bill. The nine-month extension, rolled into fiscal cliff legislation that passed Congress, will essentially restart the farm bill process with the swearing in of the new congress. Lawmakers now have until September 30 to act.
Grassley wondered aloud Wednesday why House members would not want to preserve disaster assistance in the form of crop insurance, which is subsidized, but as Grassley points out, farmers contribute to it.
“Suppose we have a disaster in agriculture; you mean the federal government isn’t going to step in and help with that disaster just like we do with every other disaster? Well, I think the answer to that is ‘yes,’” Grassley told reporters during a conference call on Wednesday. “Isn’t it better to do it through preplanning than it is afterwards? And that’s what the farm bill’s all about.”
The fiscal cliff measure, with the farm bill extension, passed, but Grassley voted against it, saying that it raises taxes without adequate reductions in spending.
The Iowa GOP lawmaker said there may still be pressure to cut further during the new Congress’s attempt to pass federal farm policy.
The measure that passed the Senate last June would have saved $23 billion over the next decade, while the bill that came out of the House Agriculture Committee would have saved $33 billion. Grassley says the debate over the next couple of months on the $1.2 trillion sequester will include pressure to increase the amount of those cuts.
“It’s not going to be [further pressure to cut costs] just for the farm bill, it’s going to be that for every domestic program, because defense isn’t going to take 50 percent of the cut,” said Grassley. “It’s going to take a big cut, but it won’t be 50 percent.”
Grassley was asked whether food stamps will be the focus of deficit reduction in upcoming farm bill debate.
“Yes,” Grassley responded. “If there’s anything beyond what we’ve already done, the answer is ‘yes’.
The nine-month farm bill extension results in the new congress renewing the process to pass a five-year measure. They’re sworn in Thursday.