WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republican leaders said Thursday they expected to take up legislation next week to help farmers and ranchers, particularly livestock producers, hit by the drought that has parched much of the nation.
House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor said disaster relief legislation could be considered next week before Congress leaves for a five-week summer recess.
While they offered few details of the legislation, it is expected to focus on the livestock industry. Many corn and soybean farmers are partially shielded from drought damage by crop insurance but fewer livestock producers have insurance and the main federal disaster program for them expired last year.
The drought is driving up the costs of feed, forcing some livestock farmers to reduce their stocks earlier than planned.
Neither discussed how to pay for a revived livestock disaster relief program.
Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, has estimated that it could cost $2.5 billion to institute a disaster program and enact a short-term extension of the current five-year farm bill, which expires at the end of September.
The Senate last month passed a $500 billion, five-year farm bill and the House committee this month approved a similar bill. Neither Boehner nor Cantor mentioned the possibility of the full House considering that legislation before the August break.
The GOP leaders have been reluctant to bring up the farm bill, which reauthorizes disaster relief programs, because of concerns it would be defeated.
Some House conservatives oppose the farm bill because of the federal subsidies provided to farmers and spending on the food stamp program, which makes up 80 percent of the $100 billion a year cost of the legislation. Democrats in turn are unhappy with plans to trim food stamp spending by 2 percent.
Cantor, in a floor discussion with the House's second-ranking Democrat, Steny Hoyer of Maryland, said the Senate farm bill, which has smaller cuts to the food stamp program, does not have majority support in the House. He asked Hoyer if he would support the House version, and Hoyer said no.