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Ag groups oppose farm bill extension

DANIEL LOOKER Updated: 07/31/2012 @ 9:23am Business Editor

Some of the nation's biggest and most influential farm and conservation groups came out against a one-year extension of the current farm bill Monday, with some saying that it offers virtually none of the deficit cutting found in the pending 2012 farm bills and pays for drought aid by making even bigger cuts to conservation programs.

The House of Representatives is expected to vote Wednesday on extending the 2008 farm bill, in essence, ignoring a bipartisan bill passed by its own Agriculture Committee earlier this month.

The American Farm Bureau Federation, the nation's largest farm organization, said Monday that it will oppose the extension.

"A one-year extension offers our farm and ranch families nothing in the way of long-term policy certainty," AFBF President, Bob Stallman, said in a statement.

The extension bill, HR 6228, provides disaster assistance for livestock producers hit by this year's drought.

But, as Stallman pointed out Monday, the Senate-passed farm bill and the bill approved by the House Agriculture Committee already include disaster provisions for livestock farmers, and those measures would likely be included in any conference committee held for the long-term legislation. Meanwhile, the extension bill “does nothing to help hog or poultry producers, little to provide assistance to the dairy industry and nothing to aid fruit and vegetable producers who may not have crop insurance available to them as a risk management tool," he said.

“Both the Senate and the House Agriculture Committee have produced reform-minded, bipartisan bills that address many of the core principles we believe are important, such as strengthening crop insurance as a reliable risk management tool,” Stallman said. “We are encouraging members of the House and their leaders to recognize the example set by both the Senate and House Agriculture Committee chairs and ranking members to forge fiscally responsible bipartisan legislation. An extension falls well short of that target.”

The American Soybean Association said Monday that it, too, prefers a new five-year farm bill.

"A one-year extension of the 2008 Farm Bill, combined with short-term disaster assistance to livestock producers, will not provide the certainty that agriculture needs now," ASA First Vice President, Danny Murphy, said in a statement.

The group didn't completely oppose an extension, however.

"ASA understands that a one-year extension of the 2008 Farm Bill may be all that can pass the House before it adjourns this week. We support moving the farm bill process forward, so that a conference can be convened in September, when Congress returns. ASA supports a one-year extension provided there are assurances that a new five-year bill can be negotiated at that time," Murphy said.

Other groups were less certain that a farm bill would result from passing an extension.

"We're not sure what the conference would do or if it means we can conference a farm bill," Laura Wood, director of government affairs for the National Association of Conservation Districts, told Agriculture.com Monday afternoon. The group, which represents 3,000 conservation districts across the nation, had been contacting members of the House all day to a express concern, she said. NACD was hearing a lot of uncertainty about the direction of farm legislation, she said.

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