In a rather uneventful voice vote Thursday, U.S. House members approved a 50-day extension of the 2008 farm bill to allow more time for conference committee negotiations on a new, five-year bill.
The extension comes on concerns that the USDA will have to revert to permanent law if a new bill isn't passed, meaning higher price supports for dairy and eventually, says Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, higher dairy prices.
In a means to avoid the reversion, House members supported the extension to Jan. 31, leaving additional time for conference committee negotiations with the Senate after December recess. Lawmakers are scheduled to head home Friday.
"The importance of completing this cannot be overstated, and we're on the verge. This is an opportunity for members to cast a vote to acknowledge to the folks back home that no matter what happens in the negotiations process, we will not have a dairy cliff," lead Republican Rep. Frank Lucas of Oklahoma said on the House floor Thursday.
But the Senate has been opposed to any extension, suggesting that farm bill conferees will be able to come to agreement without more time, even though a final vote on the farm bill won't come until January.