Ag Policy Blog

House Will Debate Farm-Only Farm Bill

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (DTN) --- House Republicans will bring a new farm bill to the floor on Thursday that breaks the four-decade farm-and-food coalition by dropping nutrition spending from the legislation.

House leaders became convinced Wednesday they have enough votes to pass a farm-only version of the legislation that avoids dealing with 80% of the spending that is now dedicated to nutrition programs.

The bill would keep the same commodity, conservation, crop insurance and rural development provisions that were developed by the House Agriculture Committee and amended on the floor before the full farm bill failed to pass June 20. A key difference, however, is that the legislation also would repeal the 1938 and 1949 permanent farm law. The new Title I would become permanent law moving forward.

Without roughly $750 billion in spending for nutrition programs over 10 years, the farm-only bill would cost about $195 billion. With congressional budget scoring that factors in sequester savings, the bill would cost about $19 billion less over 10 years than the projected cost of current programs.

Congressmen will debate and vote on the farm-only bill without a chance to amend it on Thursday. The House Rules Committee late Wednesday agreed in a party-line vote that the debate would be a "closed rule."

Still, SNAP spending will continue on auto-pilot without the $20.5 billion in projected cuts that the House Agriculture Committee initially adopted. The issue moving forward, assuming the farm-only bill passes on Thursday, is how it would be conferenced with the Senate farm bill that does include nutrition programs.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., appeared positive during the meeting over the debate rules, despite questions from Democrats about why he agreed to split the bill and stifle amendments. Lucas used the analogy that at this point he would dance with whoever would dance with him. Lucas alluded to the trouble of rallying his caucus to vote for a bill that didn't cut more from nutrition programs. Rep. Doc Hastings, D-Wash., asked Lucas why the House could not move ahead with the full legislation.

Lucas responded, "I would simply say to the gentleman that the farm bill portion of the farm bill achieved consensus first. The challenges I have within my own conference, let alone within the entire House, of achieving consensus, are even more complicated than the farm bill section of the farm bill, and this is an effort that continues in earnest, but it's just not solvable in this short time frame."

Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., who had stood by Lucas until the decision to split the bill, opted not to attend the Rules Committee meeting. Instead, Peterson issued a statement saying he still believed splitting the bill is a mistake.

"They are ignoring the advice of most of the groups affected by the bill and I see no clear path to getting a bill passed by the House and Senate and signed by the president," Peterson said.

Democrats were upset that the GOP had gone this route. Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland complained the GOP was violating its own rules on the time frame for posting legislation to read before moving to a debate. He called splitting out the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and then not even debating it "a shameful abandonment of the most vulnerable in our country, including the 76% of SNAP-participating households that include a child, senior citizen, or person with a disability. Republicans know this is a bill to nowhere – even if they succeed in passing it through the House, the Senate will not consider a Farm Bill without nutrition assistance. This dead-on-arrival messaging bill only seeks to accomplish one objective: to make it appear that Republicans are moving forward with important legislation even while they continue to struggle at governing."

Still, SNAP spending will continue on auto-pilot without the $20.5 billion in projected cuts that the House Agriculture Committee initially adopted. The issue moving forward, assuming the farm-only bill passes on Thursday, is how it would be conferenced with the Senate farm bill that does include nutrition programs.

Conservatives groups have been thumping on Republicans to not only split the bill, but also go back and make more cuts to the farm programs. Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips thanked House Republicans for splitting the bill, but wondered why more wasn't being done. He called farm programs a version of corporate welfare.

“Even without food stamp spending, the proposed bill still costs taxpayers $195 billion for farm subsidies. Expenditures of this scale deserve proper scrutiny and a full amendment process. It would be hypocritical to oppose uncontrolled food stamp spending but support corporate welfare with no meaningful reforms. Splitting this bill is a good first step, but perpetuating the status quo is unacceptable.”

The White House agrees with conservative groups on a few of those points. The administration issued a late statement Wednesday opposing the new farm bill, partially because the bill was only made available in the evening and the administration had not had time to fully review the text. "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," the White House stated.

The administration, though, also criticized the split, saying the nutrition programs benefit rural, suburban and urban area 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," The White House stated.

note: I am in Bloomington, Ill., finishing a conservation tour.

I can be found on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN


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Bonnie Dukowitz
7/11/2013 | 2:02 PM CDT
One needs to look at which political party held the House Chair since whenever to give credit or blame to one or the other. Very seldom has the radical Republicans ever held the House Chairmanship. I do not think ever has that terrible GOP held the House, Senate and Oval office. One must remember, all spending bills need to originate in the House. Mr. Obama had total control, for a spell, and did not even pass a budget.
John Olson
7/11/2013 | 9:31 AM CDT
You can pretend Jay that republicans have controlled Detroit and Chicago politics, but it is not the case.
Jay Mcginnis
7/11/2013 | 7:57 AM CDT
Looking at history John there is more proof that GOP generates the fiscal problems, but you can pretend, just like Rush and Hanity,, pretend your policy is fiscally sound, go ahead, party like its 1959!!!!
John Olson
7/11/2013 | 5:58 AM CDT
Just as liberals and rinos are determined to turn the whole country into a financial wasteland like they have made Detroit and Chicago is no reason to vote for the insanity known as current proposed farm bill.