Agriculture Secretary Urges "Reform-Minded" Farm Bill

Agriculture Secretary Urges "Reform-Minded" Farm Bill

The voting may be over, but the fighting certainly isn’t, at least when it comes to the farm bill.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has urged Congress to break a logjam and pass a reform-minded farm bill, but two lobbyists say the deadlocked $500-billion bill may not be enacted for months, or even a year.

Vilsack, who is expected to stay at USDA for at least the start of President Barack Obama's second term, says the USDA "would do everything we can" to implement a new farm bill in time for the 2013 harvest next fall.

With deficit reduction at the top of the agenda for lawmakers during a brief post-election session, Vilsack says, "reform becomes a very important component" for the farm bill, already six weeks overdue.

Months ago, Obama suggested $33 billion in agricultural cuts, and analysts say the best chance to pass a farm bill this year would be to use its budget cuts as part of an overall plan to reduce the federal deficit.

But they see little chance of a budget pact and say the farm bill is a minor issue for lawmakers to spend time on, compared to looming automatic budget cuts and tax increases.

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