Monday, September 17, 2012

Sen. Stabenow: Why Won't The House Vote On The Farm Bill?

Sep 14: A release from Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee reports on the "Farm Bill Now!" rally, where she says Democrats and Republicans came together to urge the House of Representatives to take up the Farm Bill. With Congress scheduled to recess on September 21, there very little time left to deal with this major issue [See WIMS 9/10/12].
    In June, the Senate achieved rare bipartisan agreement when it passed Sen. Stabenow's 2012 Farm Bill, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act ((S.3240, with a vote of 64-35) [See WIMS 6/21/12]. Her bill has been widely praised from both sides of the aisle for its significant reforms that cut spending by $23 billion, disaster assistance for farmers, and support for job creation in one of the country's largest economic sectors. The House Agriculture Committee has also passed a bipartisan Farm Bill (July 17 (H.R.6083) [See WIMS 7/17/12], but Sen. Stabenow said "the House Republican leadership is currently blocking that bill from being considered in the full House of Representatives."Work cannot continue on the bill until the full House follows the Senate's lead and passes a full Farm Bill. Sen. Stabenow was joined at the rally by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) in calling on the House to take up and pass a full five-year Farm Bill.

    Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) said, "Passing a Farm Bill is more important now than it has ever been.... I appreciate the efforts of our Chairperson in the Senate, Senator Stabenow, and my colleague from Kansas, Sen. Roberts. The evidence is there that we can come together as Republicans and Democrats to produce a Farm Bill that provides good things.... We know that when a storm comes and it's time to harvest, our farmers will hook up their tractor and go to work. They will not wait to see what's going to happen...we all know that a storm is coming on Sept. 30th when the Farm Bill expires."

    Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) said: "[Farming is] a risky business, and this year with this drought situation we are certainly seeing that... that's why a Farm Bill is so important, that's why we need the certainty that it brings, and that's why we need to get this Farm bill done now.... We need to continue to work together...the best day that I've had here in Washington, D.C. was the day we marked up the Ag. bill in the House Agriculture committee and it was because it was bipartisan.... Let's get some work done and let's get a Farm Bill now."

    Senator Stabenow asks, "Why won't House leadership take up a bill so widely praised by members on both sides of the aisle?" The release includes a number of quotes from senators from both parties at the time the Farm Bill was overwhelmingly passing the Senate.

    On September 13, the National Farmers Union (NFU) sent a letter today urging Congressional representatives to sign a meeting request to discuss scheduling floor time for a vote on the farm bill, which is set to expire on Sept. 30. NFU President Roger Johnson noted in the letter, "The Senate and the House Committee on Agriculture have already passed their own versions of the farm bill and the full House must act soon. As such, I urge you to sign the letter to request a meeting with Leader Cantor in order to move the farm bill process forward."

    American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Bob Stallman emceed the "Farm Bill Now!" rally on Capitol Hill and said, "Perhaps never in the history of farm legislation have so many diverse farmer and rancher voices joined together for such a common call for action on a farm bill. We gather here under a banner adorned with three words. FARM. BILL. NOW. And we are here to raise our voices toward Capitol Hill…for a shared purpose." Stallman indicated that the farm bill isn't just a bill for farmers. The USDA says, 1 in every 12 American jobs is directly related back to the farm.

    On September 13, Representative Bruce Braley (D-IA) issued a release saying that after 65 days, and significant pressure from him, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) had finally allowed the House Farm Bill to be reported from Committee.  Immediately, Rep. Braley formally introduced a bipartisan discharge petition and said, "Today, we took a tremendous step forward toward forcing a vote on the Farm Bill. After 65 days of dithering and distraction, Speaker Boehner has finally allowed the bill to be released from Committee. Today, I've filed my bipartisan discharge petition to force this bill to the Floor. I urge my colleagues to sign the petition immediately. Now that we, a group of Democrats and Republicans, have filed this discharge petition, and it's available for signatures, we'll see who really supports the Farm Bill Now."   

    A New York Times (NYT) article on the current situation indicates that House leaders, "are not eager to force their members to take a vote that would be difficult for some of them, nor would they wish to pass a measure largely with Democrats' votes right before an election. . . Some conservatives in each chamber dislike the farm bill generally and would like to see it cut back much further than House or Senate committee members propose. Many Democrats dislike the $16 billion in cuts to nutrition programs in the House bill, and some Southern members who represent rice and peanut growers do not like other proposed changes."

    Access the release from Sen. Stabenow (click here). Access a release from NFU and link to the letter and signers (click here). Access a release from the AFBF (click here). Access a release from Rep. Braley (click here). Access the NYT article with further details (click here). Access legislative details for H.R.6083 (click here). Access the legislative details for S.3240 (click here). Access the Farm Bill Now website for more information (click here). [#Agriculture, #Land, #Water, #Energy]

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