The fiscal cliff settlement, which extends the most-recent agriculture law until September, is frustrating farm groups that spent 2012 pushing new programs and now must start again under a tougher spending outlook.
Congress' approval of a one-year extension of the farm bill that expired Sept. 30 heads off government-mandated higher milk prices. It also preserves subsidies that even farmers call wasteful and makes plans approved by the U.S. House Agriculture Committee and full Senate last year moot.
Now back to square one, lobbyists and lawmakers may have an even tougher climb as cost-cutting rules the day, said analyst Mark McMinimy.
“The dairy cliff was the moment their leverage reached its peak, and that's passed,” said McMinimy, of Guggenheim Washington Research Group in Washington. “They're going to have to regroup and may come up with a little bit different strategy this year.”
The fiscal cliff vote also extended farm programs until Sept. 30, giving Congress time to craft a new farm bill this year. Without the fix, the government would be required to buy milk, driving up dairy prices to levels mandated by a 1949 law that took effect when the previous policy expired.
Still, many lawmakers and farm groups were disappointed. Pam Johnson, president of the National Corn Growers Association, said the one-year patch will make long-term planning for farmers difficult.
“The system is clearly broken,” said Johnson. The association hopes congressional leaders this year “can place petty partisanship aside to create a bill that benefits all of America,” she said.
The National Farmers Union, the second-biggest U.S. farmer group, is also unhappy. “An extension represents a shortsighted, temporary fix that ultimately provides inadequate solutions that will leave our farmers and ranchers crippled by uncertainty,” said Roger Johnson, the group's president.