The Washington Post

Farm bill remains in limbo

The "fiscal cliff" isn’t the only precipice facing the country. The dairy cliff could soon become a reality, too.

As of Sunday night, it appeared that Congress was on track to approve a nine-month extension of the 2008 farm bill in a last-ditch effort to avoid a potential doubling of milk prices beginning in January.

But that tentative accord appeared to have fallen apart by Monday as GOP leaders indicated they hadn’t signed off on the plan, which had been approved by both chambers’ agriculture committees. According to CBS News, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is now working on assembling a new, scaled-back measure that could be brought to the floor in both chambers in the coming days.

In a floor speech Monday night, as the fiscal cliff talks continued, an incensed Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) took aim at Republicans for the last-ditch extension, which she charged "only extends part of the farm programs and keeps 100 percent of the direct subsidies going.”

“I want to hear somebody justify that on the floor,” she said.

The Senate passed its own version of a farm bill in June, but a House measure approved by the chamber's agriculture committee has yet to be brought to the floor for a vote.

"People are sitting in rooms trying to decide how we get deficit reduction, and we passed something that saves $24 billion in a fiscally responsible way. ... We went through every single page of the farm bill, which is what we ought to be doing in every part of government ... We did that. And now, at the last minute, none of that matters?" Stabenow asked.

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