Farm bill makes progress, but somewhat questionable progress

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By a vote of 216 to 208—and without any Democratic votes—the House of Representatives approved a stripped down version of the Farm Bill Thursday. The legislation eliminated all of the funding and programs for food and nutrition, such as school lunches, daycare food subsidies, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that provides food for the indigent and infirm.

The House leadership said food aid programs, which their conservative members want substantially cut, would be addressed at another time. However, the House plans to meet with the Senate to work out differences between the House agriculture policy and the Senate Farm and Food bill as soon as possible. 

When the House recessed yesterday there were only 12 legislative days left before the August Recess, and only 21 total legislative days left before the September 30 expiration of current farm and food policy. The challenge will be for House and Senate conference committee to merge their two differing plans into something that will pass both Houses.

"Today was an important step toward enacting a five-year farm bill this year that gives our farmers and ranchers certainty, provides regulatory relief to small businesses across the country, significantly reduces spending, and makes common-sense, market-oriented reforms to agricultural policy. I look forward to continuing conversations with my House colleagues and starting conversations with my Senate colleagues on a path forward that ultimately gets a farm bill to the President's desk in the coming months," said Chairman Frank Lucas

The legislation which passed the House, H.R. 2642 has 608 pages and does not contain any food and nutrition programs, and also removes 1938 and 1949 permanent agricultural laws as the basis for farm programs. Those supply management programs, which offered parity prices to farmers should a new Farm Bill not be approved, were typically pre-empted when new legislation is passed.

The legislation would be matched with the Senate’s Farm Bill for a conference committee to work out the differences. However, Senate Agriculture Chair Debbie Stabenow said the partial Farm Bill was “extremely flawed,” “not a real Farm Bill,” and “an insult to rural America.”  However, she said she will go to the conference committee meeting with the bi-partisan bill approved in the Senate. Retiring Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa said, “The House-passed farm bill, without nutrition title, will only make it easier for tea party to get rid of support for farmers over time.”

The House action that approved farm legislation with the bare minimum majority did not include votes from 12 Republican members who wanted more cuts in farm programs, and were part of 62 Republicans who voted against the legislation in June during a failed attempt to pass it. Earlier, the House leadership determined that 218 votes would not be needed because of several absences of House members Thursday. There were no Democrats who voted for the bill because of the total elimination of food and nutrition programs.  Prior to the vote, many Democrats expressed concerns about the absence of funding, and said it would hurt rural Americans who benefit from food stamps, just as do urban residents.

Initially, Congressman Frank Lucas, chair of the House Agriculture Committee was opposed to the strategy of the Republican House leadership, but relented, indicating there would be little chance of anything else passing the House. Farm organizations had been quite supportive of the nutrition programs being included, and the American Farm Bureau remained opposed to the Republican leadership strategy, as did the National Farmers Union. However, the National Corn Growers at the last minute agreed to support the change. NCGA Chairman of the Board Garry Niemeyer said his group saw it as the only way to get new farm legislation, but expressed concerns about the way the stripped down bill was presented to the House just before the vote was taken.

Source: FarmGate blog

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William D Bethea    
Carolina Border Belt  |  July, 13, 2013 at 07:04 AM

I certainly support the House passed version of the Farm Bill. The only alternative is to continue the old Farm Bill as at present; really not an alternative. The food programs legislation really should be separate from the farm bill anyway. It was a compromise of long ago, as I understand it, that has outlived its usefulness.

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