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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