House begins Farm Bill debate
Can a spirit of compromise continue? The U.S. House of Representatives this week began debating its version of the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (FARRM), following its passage through the House Agriculture Committee in May. The U.S. Senate passed their version of the bill last week.
The House Agriculture Committee showed a level of bipartisanship unusual in today’s politics by approving the bill with a vote of 36 to 10. Also, last week House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) expressed his support for the House version of the bill, likely strengthening its chance for passage on the floor.
The committee’s leadership called for continued bipartisan action in bringing the bill to the House floor. “This bipartisan bill is four years in the making and I could not have had a better partner than my friend from Minnesota, Mr. Peterson,” said committee chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), in reference to Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.)
“The FARRM Act is a different farm bill for different times,” Lucas says. “There is a reason we put reform in the title. This is the most reform-minded bill in decades. It repeals outdated policies while reforming, streamlining, and consolidating over 100 government programs. It reforms the SNAP program – also known as the food stamp program - for the first time since the welfare reforms of 1996. And, it makes tremendous reforms to farm programs.
“The Agriculture Committee and the agriculture community have voluntarily worked together to make these reforms and contribute to deficit reduction. Every part of this bill is a part of the solution to Washington’s spending problem. We save the American taxpayer nearly $40 billion, which is almost seven times the amount of cuts to these programs under sequestration.”
Peterson, in his opening statements, also called for House members to follow the committee’s lead by working toward compromise. “I often tell people that the Agriculture Committee is perhaps the least partisan of all the Committees in Congress. We listen to each other, try to understand each other and work together in the best interests of our constituents.
“The bill before us today is a compromise that reflects that tradition. It is a compromise between commodities and regions, and urban and rural members. I didn’t get everything I wanted; Chairman Lucas didn’t get everything he wanted but that’s how the legislative process is supposed to work.”
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