U.S. House majority leadership may allow a vote on the farm bill after the election

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The plan is to gut the farm bill in the name of austerity. Here’s a report from a Colorado point of view, from Matt Hildner writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

Efforts to reduce groundwater pumping in the San Luis Valley could get a shot in the arm when Congress resumes for its lame­duck session following the November elections. U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor told the Idaho Statesman newspaper during a campaign stop Thursday that the farm bill would go to the floor of the House for a vote when Congress returns.

That’s good news for a group of groundwater irrigators in the north­central part of the valley. They were counting on the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program to help retire farm ground as a means of reducing groundwater use. Tim Davis, a consultant for the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, said farmers can’t enroll in the program until the farm bill is reauthorized or a new one is put in place.

Subdistrict No. 1, which takes in more than 300,000 acres of irrigated ground in the north­central part of the valley, did temporarily fallow more than 9,000 acres last summer, although the effort was done entirely with the subdistrict’s funds. The subdistrict’s management plan calls for the fallowing of up to 40,000 acres within a decade.

The Senate passed a new farm bill earlier this year. The House Agriculture Committee also passed a version, but leadership in the lower chamber never brought the measure to the floor [ed. emphasis mine].

While the fallowing program is an important component of the subdistrict, its primary purpose is to compensate senior surface water rights holders for the harm caused by groundwater pumping. A trial that may have a say in how and with what sources of water that compensation may occur is scheduled to start Monday in Alamosa.

More coverage from The Hill (Erik Wasson):

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) caused a stir on Thursday when he seemed to indicate that a standalone farm bill would come to the House floor after the Nov. 6 election. But lobbyists said the remarks mean, at best, that a modified farm bill could be wrapped into a lame-duck bill dealing with expiring tax cuts and automatic spending cuts.

“I’m committed to bring the issue to the floor and then to see a way forward so we can get the votes to pass (a bill),” Cantor said at a campaign event in Idaho.

Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) seized on the remarks, saying, “I’m very pleased to hear that Majority Leader Cantor is now committed to bring the Farm Bill to the floor immediately after the election.”

Republican aides, however, quickly made clear that Cantor was not expressing any new support for moving the farm bill as reported out of the House Agriculture Committee this summer.

Washington farm lobbyists said that in the wake of Cantor’s comments, the last best hope for the 2012 farm bill to pass will be if it is riding on fiscal cliff legislation.

“People on both sides of the aisle have made it clear to me that the only way it will be passed is as part of the fiscal cliff bill, if there is one,” one lobbyist said.

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