Beef Buzz News
Election Critically Important to Lame Duck Action on Farm BillWed, 10 Oct 2012 15:09:44 CDT
With the November elections looming closer, Colin Woodall, the lead Washington lobbyist of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, spoke with Ron Hays about the issues at stake for cattle producers over the next couple of months. A lot is riding on the election including the direction of the lame duck session which will follow it.
Woodall says the first thing that cattle producers can do is to encourage each other to get out and vote.
"It's all about getting people to the polls on Tuesday, November 6th. And, more importantly, if people already know they can't make it to the polls to be sure they are talking to their local jurisdictions to find out what they need to either vote early or vote absentee."
Woodall says he's been in contact with Congressional staffers trying to understand how to get the stalled farm bill onto the House floor after the election. He said those staffers say there is no way to know for certain because so many seats may be changing hands. The outcome will determine what is considered in the lame duck session and how quickly action can be taken. There are a number of items on the agenda not the least of which is taxes. Woodall said he doesn't foresee a scenario which will radically alter the status quo at this time.
"More than likely we're going to see a simple extension of the tax cuts we have right now. That's not ideal because it doesn't give us any sort of certainty," but, he said, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will simply not allow any overhaul of the tax package at this time.
Despite not expecting much permanent action on estate taxes and capital gains taxes, he said it is imperative to get the farm bill passed in the lame duck session. Otherwise, the process of writing a new bill will fall to the next Congress when it opens its new session.
"This is one thing we're trying to remind everybody-this is not just a matter of having something roll over into January. Everything that is outstanding here in Congress expires at the end of the year. So, with the new Congress starting in January, we would have to start this process all over again. That means going through committee markups, having new versions of the bill. And, so, it really is going to add a whole lot more to this process. It's also going to prolong a lot of the pain that has been a part of the process."
Woodall says that now that the 2008 farm bill has expired there don't seem to be major problems as of yet, but landowners who want to get into a conservation programs are now locked out. He says that if the lame duck session ends with no new farm bill, all bets are off.
"If we get to the point that we don't have this farm bill done by the end of the lame duck session and, all of a sudden, funding to existing programs begins to play out, I think all of us in agriculture are really going to start to feel the hurt. That alone should be enough to try to get Congress to pass this bill or some sort of action on a farm bill."
Beyond moving the farm bill itself in a lame duck session, the outcome of the presidential race could have profound effects on government agencies that deal with agriculture.
"We have to start looking at EPA because they are the ones that have given us the most grief here in the Obama administration," Woodall says. "We definitely would hope that the EPA under a Romney administration would be much more friendly to the cattle industry and not have so many frivolous attempts at regulating us like we have seen through ag dust, farm dust, and also the Clean Water Act guidance.
"But there's no guarantee because one of the things we're dealing with right now, for example, is the Renewable Fuel Standard which the EPA had a hand in and that was all done in the Bush administration. So, no matter who's in the White House, we're always going to have challenges with the EPA. It just depends on how hard those challenges really are."
Woodall said that the makeup and control of the Senate and House are anything but clear at this point, there is one combination that he thinks would be absolutely disastrous in terms of getting anything done in the lame duck session.
"The combination that gives us the least chance of getting anything done, I think, is a situation where you have a 50-50 Senate split with 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans. That is a very real possibility coming out of election day. I think if that is the case we're going to see the Senate really drag their feet on all of these outstanding issues so we're really concerned with that.
"I think the optimum situation is the House maintaining Republican control like they have now and seeing a flip in the Senate becoming Republican controlled. I think that would be a great impetus for Congress to get these big ticket issues done in lame duck. That way they could start this new Congress fresh with a new agenda trying to address some real reforms."
He says if there is any single issue that prevented the 2012 Farm Bill from moving forward earlier, it would have to be the nutrition title. He said there are Congressmen and Senators who feel that the bill cuts nutrition too much and others who feel exactly the opposite.
"At this point in time there is no solution that is going to make both sides happy. It's trying to find that happy middle as best we can to get as many people to vote for this bill as possible and I think Chairman Lucas has done a great job of that with his version of the farm bill. We just need to be able to get it to the floor of the House, get some votes on it, and get this thing done."
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