Ag Policy Blog

White House Opposes House Version of Farm Bill

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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WASHINGTON (DTN) --- While Obama administration officials want a farm bill passed, the White House made it clear late Monday that the president would veto the House version of the legislation --- the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013.

The White House statement of policy on the House version of the farm bill stated the administration strongly opposes cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and would rather see cuts to crop insurance programs. "The Administration believes that Congress should achieve significant budgetary savings to help reduce the deficit without creating hardship for vulnerable families – for example, by reducing crop insurance subsidies," the White House stated.

The White House came out with much stronger language attacking the House bill than the Senate version of the bill that passed last week. Specifically, the statement of policy from the administration noted that the House bill would increase target prices for farmers by 45% and would increase crop-insurance programs by $9 billion over 10 years. The president called for an $11.7 billion cut to crop insurance over 10 years that was ignored by both the House and Senate agriculture committees.

The House bill, as it stands, would cut $20.5 billion in spending on SNAP over 10 years. Several amendments that could be debated later this week could deepen those cuts as well.

Moreover, the White House stated the bill "does not contain sufficient commodity and crop insurance reforms, and does not provide funding for renewable energy, which is an important source of jobs and economic growth in rural communities across the country."

The White House also stated that the administration wants crop-insurance payments ties to conservation compliance measures as well.

The criticisms from the administration come as the House begins sorting through which amendments to debate on the bill. More than 220 amendments were filed by Monday afternoon. The number of amendments forced the House Rules Committee to hold a Monday meeting to discuss the underlying bill while scheduling a separate meeting Tuesday afternoon to discuss how the debate on amendments will be handled.

That effectively means debate on amendments would not begin until Wednesday afternoon. Given that the House is scheduled for its final vote of the week on Thursday afternoon, it looks like the House could go into a marathon session Wednesday evening to get the House Agriculture Committee's bill done.

Nutrition programs also fill list of proposals as Republicans offer more proposals to further cut SNAP by limiting eligibility for the program while Democrats seek to hold the line on cuts or expand some nutrition programs.

Some amendments directed at farm programs and crop insurance include:

Reps. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, and Ron Kind, D-Wis., propose scrapping the House Ag Committee's target price proposal to go with the same language as the Senate. That would mean pegging target prices to 55% of the five-year rolling average for crops. Gibbs and Kind's amendment would go beyond the Senate by including peanuts and rice in that same formula.

Kind also is part of a bi-partisan proposal to match the Senate in cuts to crop-insurance premium subsidies for larger farmers. The amendment would reduce the subsidy level by 15% for people with adjusted gross income of more than $750,000. The Senate has adopted that amendment the past two years in its version of the bill.

Another proposal by Reps Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, goes farther by reducing the premium subsidy for producers with adjusted gross income greater than $250,000 and eliminating it altogether for producers with AGI greater than $750,000.

Blumenauer also proposes to eliminate those two years of direct payments for cotton farmers under the bill.

Georgia congressmen want to block corn farmers from receiving farm-program payments if they sell their corn directly to an ethanol facility. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., offered that proposal. Reps. Jack Kingston, Lynn Westmoreland, and Austin Scott, all Republicans, also filed a similar amendment.

Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., and Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., also propose requiring a conservation compliance plan be filed with the USDA and followed for all crops in wetlands and all annually tilled crops on highly erodible lands in order to qualify for crop insurance premium subsidy assistance.

Fortenberry also proposes capping commodity payments at $250,000 per year for any one farm and tightening the language of who is an actively-engaged farmer. The Senate bill would cap farm payments at $250,000 per married couple. Marketing loans would be capped at $150,000 per couple and all other payments would be capped at $100,000 per couple.

Reps. Tom Petri, R-Wis., Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Kind propose placing an annual cap at $50,000 for the total subsidy received by a farmer who participates in the Federal Crop Insurance Program and require the recipient to be “actively engaged” in farming in order to qualify for the subsidy.

Those same three congressmen were joined nine others to propose capping crop-insurance profitability at 12%, as well as put caps on administrative and operating expenses. They also propose a $50,000 premium-subsidy cap.

Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., wants to disclose crop-insurance subsidies for individuals. Specifically, Foxx would like disclosure of government officials and immediate family members receiving such subsidies, as well as majority shareholders in farms. Four other lawmakers also offered a similar amendment requiring name disclosure.

Rep. John Duncan, R-Tenn., and Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., propose to eliminate the premium subsidy for harvest-price crop-insurance policies.

Some Republicans are determined to keep Christmas trees from being "taxed." Tree sellers have been trying to establish their own checkoff program, but the view of creating a Christmas tree "tax" pervades. At least two amendments were filed to strip that provision from the bill. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., and Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., also propose stripping the "natural stone" checkoff proposal from the legislation.

Four congressmen have signed on to an amendment to change the federal sugar program, which failed in committee and also has failed repeatedly to garner enough support on the Senate floor.

Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, and Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., want to eliminate the Market Access Program through 2018. That program has been protected by commodity groups that argue it is critical for trade expansion. Chabot also proposed separate amendments to get make sure China doesn't get any Food for Peace assistance. He also wants to terminate the Foreign Market Development Cooperator program.

Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., wants to keep the current counter-cyclical and ACRE program and eliminate the proposed new commodity programs in the House farm bill, the target-price program and the shallow-loss program. Broun also wants to repeal the permanent farm law from 1949 to keep from reverting to permanent law for dairy price support. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, also proposed to repeal permanent law.

Following the Oregon biotech wheat controversy, five Democrats, including Reps Peter DeFazio and Blumenauer from Oregon, filed an amendment requiring USDA to report on any unauthorized releases of genetically engineered materials, and strengthens gene containment standards for genetically engineered crop field trials based on 2005 USDA OIG audit recommendations to provide assurances to farmers and export markets.

A contingency of New York lawmakers want to strike import restrictions on olive oil contained in the bill.

Rep. Marlin Stutzman proposes to eliminate Title IV, the nutrition title, from the farm bill and create separate consideration for that title. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, also introduced a similar amendment.

Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., wants to require the Natural Resources Conservation Service to provide data and consultation to EPA regarding water quality and nutrient management relating to ongoing modeling for the Chesapeake Bay watershed, including EPA’s ongoing implementation of the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).

The full White House commentary on the House farm bill: http://www.whitehouse.gov/…

Information on House amendments to the farm bill: http://rules.house.gov/…

I can be found on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

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Jay Mcginnis
6/18/2013 | 11:59 AM CDT
Amen to Pedro and W Lee,,,, conservation compliance should be mandated to be able to farm! Why should this generation of farmers be allowed to wash their farm down the toilet and pollute the bays and oceans? Greed! I see so many local farmers getting huge subsidies while their filed are ripped with wash outs because they cant see those few extra corn rows not get planted in waterways!
W Lee Deutsche
6/18/2013 | 10:07 AM CDT
I definitely concur with CONSERVATION COMPLIANCE being a prerequisite. We farmers should be stewards of the soil.
Pedro Sanchez
6/18/2013 | 10:01 AM CDT
Quite a list. In the name of savings, will anything happen? I doubt it. I just find it difficult to understand that a nation of such wealth, that we continue to insist on giving more and more subsidies to big business and find that reasonable and just. Yet, we pound on the pulpit of people taking care of themselves and doing in on their own and that there should be less and less SNAP funds. Yes there is waste in the program, and it could be cleaned up better, but I have a hard time morally and religously saying I need a subsidy for crop insurance, a direct payment, and other government assistance when I am making plenty of money while the poor struggle to feed, clothe and house themselves.