After the U.S. House adjourns this weekend, it’s very unlikely that they will be back in Washington until after the November election.
The timetable is creating a major problem for members of Congress who want to pass a new 5-year Farm Bill before the current law expires in two weeks.
Congressman Peter Welch is a member of the House Agriculture committee. He points out that several months ago this panel gave its approval to a proposed Farm Bill. The legislation contains a new dairy program that’s designed to stabilize milk prices and discourage the over production of milk.
But House leaders are concerned that the legislation doesn’t make big enough cuts in crop subsidy and nutrition programs and Welch says the bill is now in legislative limbo.
"It’s inexcusable. I mean America needs a Farm Bill, Vermont dairy needs a Farm Bill and this will be the first time in the history of the House where the Agriculture committee, on a bi-partisan basis, passed the Farm Bill but the leadership decided not to bring it to the floor for a vote."
Welch is building a bipartisan coalition of members, primarily from farm states, to convince the leadership to bring the bill to the floor for a vote this week.
"I really dispute this idea that we don’t have votes. A lot of folks don’t want to vote on it but you what it’s our job to vote and if you put this bill on the floor and then we let folks propose their amendments," said Welch. "And if at the end of the day we have to vote up or down that’s a different decision where members know we have some responsibility."
Welch says if the current law expires, there will be no price safety net for dairy farmers and he thinks it will be much more difficult to get votes for the new dairy reforms if the issue is put off until a new Congress meets in January.
"Because if we’re not triggered under the MILC program then the safety net program doesn’t kick in. So we’d be at the mercy of market," said Welch. "So there’s a lot in it for Vermont dairy to have us act on the Farm Bill this year."
The Farm Bill, as passed by the House Agriculture committee, does contain significant cuts to the Food Stamp program. Welch is hoping that the House will pass the bill and then agree to a Senate plan that makes fewer reductions in nutrition programs.