Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, predicts a new or extended farm bill this year, but not a lapse in farm law authority.
Grassley wants a new farm bill done by the middle of summer, but say if it's not it may not get done until after the elections. Grassley says that doesn't mean there won't be any farm bill this year - as long as food stamps and the farm bill are tied together. He says he expects those to remain together and that there will be a farm bill for 2013, the question is will it be a new one or the old one?
Grassley argues election-year politics could still derail a new bill, which would then have to be written in 2013.
Grassley expects a new bill to include crop insurance and countercyclical payments, but not politically troublesome direct payments. But he says two more things could cause problems. One is the calendar as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has cut the working time of the Senate in half.
"For Senator Reid 2011 as well as 2012 has been election year and he has basically cut the working time of the Senate in half," Grassley said. "You can judge that by the number of days we've been in session, the number of days we've had debate on bills, and more importantly and the easiest way to do it is about half the roll calls we'd normally have."
Grassley says with recess breaks in February, April, May, July and August there won't be much time to do a farm bill. Although he says Reid may be more generous with it to help Senate Ag Chair Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., who is up for re-election.
And then there's the budget. where ag could get hit harder than planned if the Pentagon escapes the massive automatic cuts in last year's Budget Control Act. Grassley said earlier he foresees a dollar-for-dollar impact on domestic programs for every dollar in cuts defense is spared.