Christopher Doering, Gannett
WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Tuesday to extend parts of the expired 2008 farm bill through September, a move that would prevent milk prices from immediately surging.
The measure, part of a last-minute package to avoid the "fiscal cliff," has to win an uncertain vote in the House.
Without a bill in place, prices paid by the government to farmers would revert back to higher 1949 levels. That could double the prices consumers pay for milk to $7 a gallon.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said she considers the slimmed-down extension to be "Mitch McConnell's version of a farm bill." She was referring to the Senate Republican leader from Kentucky, who she said forced bargainers to accept the version of the farm bill that appeared in the deal.
McConnell spokesman Michael Brumas said, "Sen. McConnell put forward a bipartisan, responsible solution that averted the dairy cliff and provided certainty to farmers for the next year without costing taxpayers a dime."
The farm bill deal came hours after an apparent deal between House and Senate agricultural leaders that would have extended the entire 2008 farm bill for a year. That broader proposal fell to the wayside during negotiations to reach a deal on the fiscal cliff .
House Republican leaders, including Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, have been reluctant to vote on a larger five-year farm bill because of concerns they did not have the necessary support.
The full Senate passed its bill in June, and the House Agriculture Committee passed its own measure a month later. The entire House never voted on either bill.
There have been widespread disagreements as to how much the farm bill should cut spending in nutrition programs.
The fiscal cliff package also extended the wind tax credit through Jan. 1, 2014. The wind energy incentive, which has been in effect on and off since 1992, expired Monday.
The American Wind Energy Association, a lobbying group, estimated the wind industry could shed 37,000 jobs if Congress fails to extend the tax credit.
Contributing: The Associated Press