WASHINGTON — A patchwork extension of federal farm programs passed as part of a larger fiscal cliff bill keeps the price of milk from rising but doesn't include many of the goodies that farm-state lawmakers are used to getting for their rural districts.
House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders who spent more than a year working on a half-trillion-dollar, five-year farm bill that would keep subsidies flowing had to accept in the final hours a slimmed-down, nine-month extension of 2008 law with few extras for anyone.
With the new Congress opening Thursday, they'll have to start the farm bill process over again, most likely with even less money for agriculture programs this year and the recognition that farm interests have lost some clout.
I think there's a lot of hurt feelings, that all of this time and energy was put into it and you've got nothing to show for it, said Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union.
There is no way to explain this, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said angrily as the deal came together New Year's Eve. None. There is absolutely no way to explain this other than agriculture is just not a priority.
Meanwhile on Thursday President Barack Obama in Hawaii signed a $633 billion defense bill despite serious concerns about the limits Congress imposed on his handling of terror suspects and lawmakers' unwillingness to back the cost-saving retirement of aging ships and aircraft.
Obama had threatened to veto it because of a number of concerns, but relented because he couldn't pick and choose specific sections.
He complained that the bill limits the military's authority to transfer third-country nationals being held at a detention facility in Parwan, Afghanistan. He also took issue with restrictions on his authority to transfer terror suspects from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.