Friday, June 21, 2013

House Farm Bill Voted Down 234 - 195

Jun 20: Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) failed to secure enough votes to pass the House version of the 2013 Farm Bill. The bill -- H.R.1947, Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act -- failed on a vote of 195 - 234; with 174 Republican and 24 Democrats voting for the measure; and 62 Republicans and 172 Democrats voting against it. On Jun 10, the U.S. Senate passed its version of the Farm Bill -- S. 954 (Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013 ) -- by a wide bipartisan margin, 66-27 [See WIMS 6/11/13]. 
    House Agricultural Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) issued a brief statement saying, "On this day, on this vote, the House worked its will.  I'm obviously disappointed, but the reforms in H.R.1947 -- $40 billion in deficit reduction, elimination of direct payments and the first reforms to SNAP since 1996 -- are so important that we must continue to pursue them.  We are assessing all of our options, but I have no doubt that we will finish our work in the near future and provide the certainty that our farmers, ranchers, and rural constituents need." The Senate Bill included cuts of $24 billion dollars in spending in agriculture programs by eliminating unnecessary direct payment subsidies, consolidating programs to end duplication, and cracking down on food assistance abuse.
    House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) commented saying, "The farm bill failed to pass the House today because the House Republicans could not control the extreme right wing of their party. From day one I cautioned my colleagues that to pass a farm bill we would have to work together. Instead, the House adopted a partisan amendment process, playing political games with extreme policies that have no chance of becoming law. This flies in the face of nearly four years of bipartisan work done by the Agriculture Committee. I'll continue to do everything I can to get a farm bill passed but I have a hard time seeing where we go from here."

    Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) said in a release, "The House farm bill failed commonsense conservation standards, and it failed to get enough votes to pass. Reasonable measures to protect taxpayers and natural resources must be included a farm bill. The National Wildlife Federation will continue to fight for a farm bill that includes a link between conservation compliance and crop insurance, and a National Sodsaver program." Most significantly, NWF indicated that the House bill would have created a new loophole in a longstanding requirement that farmers who receive taxpayer subsidies refrain from draining wetlands or farming erosion-prone soils without a conservation plan -- because the bill failed to extend these protections to crop insurance premium subsidies, the largest subsidy farmers receive. This could lead to the draining of 1.5 to 3.3 million acres of wetlands and greatly increased soil erosion and nutrient pollution into our lakes, streams, rivers and coastal waters.
    NWF said major agricultural groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Corn Growers, along with fiscal groups, including Americans for Tax Reform and the National Taxpayers Union supported closing this damaging loophole. Schweiger said, "It is outrageous that the House Agriculture Committee leaders opposed this wholly reasonable, basic conservation provision to protect the public good."

    Bob Stallman, President, American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) issued a statement saying, "The American Farm Bureau Federation is highly disappointed the House did not complete work on the 2013 farm bill. . . It was a balanced bill that would have provided much needed risk management tools and a viable economic safety net for America's farmers and ranchers. We commend House Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) for their commitment and hard work in bringing the bill to the floor and working toward its passage. We look forward to working with them as we regroup and move forward. We also appreciate House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) for working with the Agriculture Committee leadership to bring the bill to the floor. A completed farm bill is much needed to provide farmers and ranchers certainty for the coming years and to allow the Agriculture Department to plan for an orderly implementation of the bill's provisions."
    House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) released a statement saying, "I'm extremely disappointed that Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leadership have at the last minute chosen to derail years of bipartisan work on the Farm Bill and related reforms. This bill was far from perfect, but the only way to achieve meaningful reform, such as Congressman Southerland's amendment reforming the food stamp program, was in conference. I strongly supported the Southerland amendment which built on successful welfare reforms that have worked in the past to give states more flexibility and encourage self-sufficiency by increasing workforce participation among those enrolled in the SNAP program. I commend Chairman Frank Lucas and the House Agriculture Committee for their efforts, and am sorry that Democrats shamefully chose politics over progress and meaningful reform."

    Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD.) expressed his opposition to the significant SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) cuts included in the bill in a June 18, Floor statement. He said, "First of all, the farm bill is an important piece of legislation. It sets federal policy in a range of areas that deeply affect the lives of farmers, their communities, and consumers. But it also makes a huge difference in the lives of those who rely on food assistance to avoid hunger, especially children. It's a shame that we could not consider the farm bill on its merits without undermining its credibility with what we clearly believe are not reforms and not the elimination of waste, fraud, and abuse. . . cutting out assistance for hungry people is neither fraud, nor waste, nor abuse. Well, it may be abuse. . . SNAP as it's called, protects over 46 million Americans who are at risk of going without sufficient food. Nearly half of those are children. Are there some reforms that are needed? Perhaps. And the Senate has made those reforms in a moderate, considered way. The average monthly benefit per participant last year, according to the USDA, was $133.41. I challenge any Member of this House to live on $133.41 for food – $4.45 a day. . ." He said the bill would slash $20.5 billion from the supplemental nutrition program and put 2 million Americans at risk. Reps. Cantor and Hoyer had a "spirited" exchange following the vote on the bill (see link to video below).
Access legislative details for H.R.1947 including amendments and roll call votes (click here). Access the statement from Rep. Lucas (click here). Access the statement from Rep. Peterson (click here). Access background information and summaries of the H.R.1947 (click here). Access the statement from NWF (click here). Access the statement from the AFBF (click here). Access the statement from Rep. Cantor (click here). Access the statement from Rep. Hoyer (click here). Access video of Cantor & Hoyer (click here). Access legislative details for S.954 including amendments and roll call votes (click here). [#Agriculture, #MIAgriculture, #Land, #Water, #Energy]
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