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Grassley backs pressure on House

DANIEL LOOKER 06/25/2013 @ 9:24am Business Editor

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said Tuesday that he supports the Senate not extending the 2008 farm law again in order to keep pressure on the House of Representatives to pass a new farm bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said on the floor of the Senate Monday that the Senate would not agree to another farm bill extension, which was rolled into the "fiscal cliff" tax deal passed at the beginning of 2013. The Extension keeps major farm programs going, including costly direct payments that were eliminated in House and Senate versions of farm bills in 2012 and again this year.

Grassley, who is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, indicated Tuesday that resistance to another extension is coming from the committee's leader.

"I had a discussion with Chairwoman [Debbie] Stabenow (D-MI) and she said I could quote her that she said she's not going to extend the farm bill for another year," Grassley said.

Not extending current law holds out the possibility that permanent farm bill legislation, dating back to 1949 and earlier, could kick in sometime after the current fiscal year ends on September 30.

"The 1949 farm bill not only would be expensive but it also wouldn't fit the needs of 21st century agriculture," Grassley said. However, he sees it as the best way to keep pressure on the House of Representatives to get something done. 

When asked if he supports Stabenow's approach, Grassley told Agriculture.com, "At this point, very definitely."

Grassley said that differences over food stamp spending, not farm policy, killed the bill in the House.

When asked how the House could get a bill passed, Grassley said it would involve "not saving as much money on food stamps as they want to save, and then they can pass a bill."

One reporter suggested to Grassley that, with 62 Republicans voting against the bill last week, bigger cuts might be needed to get GOP support.

Grassley replied that "there are probably 50 Republicans that are going to vote no regardless, is the way it looks to me."

If that's the case, the House will need more votes from Democrats to move a farm bill forward.

Grassley said he was pleased that the House passed (by a vote of 230 to 194) an amendment to its farm bill that would have capped commodity program payments at $250,000 per farm annually. It was the first time in more than 20 years that the issue was considered on the House floor.

"I need to thank Congressman (Jeff) Fortenberry of Nebraska for leading that effort," Grassley said. The Nebraska Republican represents the state's first district, which includes the capital city, Lincoln, and rural areas in the eastern portion of the state.

Grassley said he thought the amendment passed by a wide margin, in part, because "10% of the farmers getting 70% of the benefits doesn't sound very good to city people."

Grassley has long championed capping payments and has been successful in getting Stabenow's support for tough limits in the Senate's farm bill. 

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