Friday, July 12, 2013

House Passes "Farm Bill" Without SNAP - What Next?

Jul 11: The U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of a Farm Bill -- H.R.2642, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act of 2013 -- by a vote of 216-208. The revised bill, introduced July 10, which breaks an historic legislative tradition by eliminating the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, i.e. food stamp program), passed with no Democratic votes in support. Twelve Republicans voted against the bill. An earlier House version H.R.1947, that included a $20.5 billion cut in SNAP funding, was defeated because many House conservatives did not think to SNAP cuts were deep enough [See WIMS 6/21/13]. The 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, on June 10 [See WIMS 6/11/13]. 
    House Agricultural Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) said, "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."
    The Ranking Member on the Agricultural Committee Collin Peterson (D-MN) had a different reaction saying, "The House Majority's decision to ignore the will of the more than 500 organizations with a stake in the farm bill, setting the stage for draconian cuts to nutrition programs and eliminating future farm bills altogether would be laughable if it weren't true. This was not the only option. Following the House failure to pass a comprehensive, bipartisan, five-year farm bill, I repeatedly expressed a willingness to work with the Majority on a path forward. I firmly believed that if we could find a way to remove the partisan amendments adopted during the House farm bill debate we would be able to advance a bipartisan bill, conference with the Senate and see it signed into law this year. Now all that is in question."
    House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) issued a statement saying, "Our farm and food stamp programs need reform. The status quo is unacceptable, which is why I voted against most of the farm bills of the past two decades, and supported this one.  I'm pleased the House took a positive first step forward in providing some much-needed reforms to our farm programs today. Reforming our food stamp programs is also essential. Chairman Lucas should be commended for his work on this bill, and I look forward to continuing to work with him and our members as we move this process forward."
    House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) released a statement saying, "House Republicans have stooped to a new low.  Unable to secure passage of a farm bill the first time around, Republicans decided to conjure up a new version late last night, strip out SNAP, and hastily push their partisan agenda through the House without a single Democratic vote. In turning their back on a long history of bipartisanship on the farm bill, Republicans abandoned the health and economic security of millions of Americans -- from seniors and children to farmers and ranchers.

    "Americans in the districts of every single Member of Congress needed us to work together so they wouldn't have to worry about going to bed hungry. Instead, Republicans decided to jeopardize the certainty and stability of America's rural communities, and risk taking food out of the mouths of those who need it most. It is shameful, disgraceful, and wrong -- wrong for our families, wrong for our communities, and wrong for our country. As Americans, our democracy is only as strong as we are as a people. Our strength depends on the economic security and prosperity of every hardworking American family who aspires to become part of the middle class -- the backbone of our democracy. Today, House Republicans undermined that strength. Now, it's time for them to change course and work with Democrats to protect and promote the prosperity of our children, families, and future generations."

    U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, issued a statement saying, "The bill passed by the House today is not a real Farm Bill and is an insult to rural America, which is why it's strongly opposed by more than 500 farm, food and conservation groups. We will go to conference with the bipartisan, comprehensive Farm Bill that was passed in the Senate that not only reforms programs, supports families in need and creates agriculture jobs, but also saves billions more than the extremely flawed House bill."

    The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) issue a brief statement saying it "looks forward to moving ahead with fundamental farm policy legislation, following House passage today of H.R. 2642. While we don't yet know what the next steps will be, we will be working with both sides of the aisle and both chambers of Congress to ensure passage of a new five-year farm bill. While we were hopeful the farm bill would not be split, nor permanent law repealed, we will now focus our efforts on working with lawmakers to deliver a farm bill to the president's desk for his signature by September."
    The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a Statement of Administrative Policy on H.R.2642 on July 10, stating, "The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 2642. . .[and] if the President were presented with H.R.2642, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill. The OMB Statement indicates further, "Because the 608 page bill was made available only this evening, the Administration has had inadequate time to fully review the text of the bill. It is apparent, though, that the bill does not contain sufficient commodity and crop insurance reforms and does not invest in renewable energy, an important source of jobs and economic growth in rural communities across the country. Legislation as important as a Farm Bill should be constructed in a comprehensive approach that helps strengthen all aspects of the Nation. This bill also fails to reauthorize nutrition programs, which benefit millions of Americans -- in rural, suburban and urban areas alike. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is a cornerstone of our Nation's food assistance safety net, and should not be left behind as the rest of the Farm Bill advances."
    Scott Faber, Environmental Working Group (EWG) Senior Vice President for Government Affairs said, ". . .The 'farm only' farm bill passed today by House Republicans – over the objections of everyone from the American Farm Bureau to the Heritage Foundation – is, simply put, the most fiscally irresponsible piece of farm legislation in history. This bill not only increases unlimited insurance subsidies, but also increases price guarantees for major crops and creates new subsidy programs for farm businesses. This bill locks in these new income subsidies for eternity under the guise of 'reform.' No one who voted for this terrible farm bill can reasonably claim to be fiscally conservative. At a time of record farm profits and record fiscal deficits, lawmakers should reject – not expand – the sort of needless corporate welfare that causes Americans to lose faith in Congress."
    Franz Matzner, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) associate director of government affairs said, "Once again, House Republicans are pushing an extreme agenda, this time to gut critically important conservation programs farmers depend on to be good stewards of our land and water and wildlife. Their farm bill also eviscerates oversight of pesticides and in a stunning example of federal overreach, blocks states from adopting food and farm standards. Without a moment's hesitation, this House farm bill should be plowed under, like the fertilizer it is, and never again see the light of day."
    There appears to be general confusion about what the next steps will be. The two, drastically different bills, based in wildly different political philosophies, will go to a Conference Committee, where it seems impossible to imagine a "compromise." Whatever emerges, if anything, will likely be rejected by one of the Chambers and a veto is certainly possible if the Administration's position is not preserved. The various scenarios do not look good for the Farm Bill, SNAP, or continuing budget debates that must be resolved before September 30.

    Access a release from Rep. Lucas and link to his Floor speech (click here). Access a release from Rep. Peterson and link to his Floor speech (click here). Access a release from Speaker Boehner that includes an opportunity to comment (click here). Access a release from Rep. Pelosi (click here). Access a release from Sen. Stabenow  (click here). Access the statement from AFBF (click here). Access the OMB Statement of Administrative Policy (click here). Access the statement from EWG (click here). Access the roll call vote for H.R.2642 (click here). Access legislative details for H.R.2642 (click here). Access legislative details for S.954 including amendments and roll call votes (click here). [#Agriculture, #MIAgriculture, #Land, #Water, #Energy]