farm

Republican leaders in the House of Representative hit a dead end on Wednesday in an effort to revive the $500 billion, five-year U.S. farm bill, increasing the likelihood that Congress will opt for a second extension of current law.

Following the surprise defeat of the bill last month, House Republican leaders floated an approach this week championed by conservative Tea Party members: splitting the bill in two.

They suggested a bill that focused on farm subsidies only and would leave the question of food stamps for later.

But informal vote counts showed insufficient support for a separate farm subsidy bill, a Republican leadership aide told Reuters.

Lawmakers are months late in writing a new farm law, divided on how much funding should be cut from programs from farm subsidies and conservation programs to food stamps for the poor. Without action by Sept. 30, farm subsidy rates will revert to a 1949 “permanent” law that could, among other things, lead to a doubling of milk prices at the grocery store.

“I cannot recall when it has been more difficult to move a farm bill forward,” said analyst Mark McMinimy of Guggenheim Partners. He said the extension of current law is becoming more likely.

The Senate passed its version of the farm bill in early June. It calls for smaller overall cuts in spending than the House bill, and would cut food stamps by one-fourth of the House’s target. Negotiators from the House and Senate would have to reconcile differences for a final bill. Both bills would streamline conservation programs and spend more on taxpayer-subsidized crop insurance.