30-day farm patches called 'poor joke'

Dec. 31, 2012 at 10:12 AM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- House Republican leaders faced criticism for proposing 30-day patches to stave off a threatened spike in U.S. milk prices next month.

One senior lawmaker called the proposal a "poor joke" and asked who planted crops for only a month, Politico reported Monday.

During a GOP whip meeting, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas pushed for a longer-term extension to provide more certainty to farmers and give lawmakers time to craft a new farm bill next year.

Pressed by President Obama, three farm-bill extensions were introduced Saturday by Republicans -- one by Lucas and two from the leadership.

The two from the leadership are patches that expire at the end of January while Lucas' measure provides a longer period.

The distance between Lucas and House Speaker John Boehner over the farm bill points up the problem Boehner faces as he tries to extricate himself from the milk crisis brought on in part because he refused to allow floor debate on a full five-year farm bill, observers said.

If nothing is done, a 1949 farm law kicks in Tuesday that requires the Agriculture Department to begin buying up dairy products at a default formula of $38.54 per hundredweight, more than double the prevailing price.

Agriculture Secretary Tim Vilsack said congressional inaction on a farm bill could send the price of milk up to $7 per gallon in 2013.

"We need to take positive action to put this issue to rest," Lucas told reporters. "And make sure that it is clear to everybody in this country that the farm-bill policy has certainty and we will not have eight- or nine-dollar milk."

Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture panel, said in a statement, "The 30-day extension approach is a poor joke on farmers that offers no certainty, just more empty promises from the Republican leadership."

Part of the waiting could be because House leaders want to see what happens in the Senate over which Bush-era tax cuts should be allowed to expire Monday, Politico said.

If a Senate deal is reached, a farm bill extension through the remainder of this fiscal year could be included.

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