The U.S. House of Representatives failed to pass a new 5-year Farm Bill last week. The bill was defeated by a vote of 195 to 234 on June 20, and failed to muster enough support from Democrats and Republicans concerned over the size of the proposed cuts to the country's popular food stamp program.
The defeat sets the stage for an uphill battle in Congress to try to deliver a new farm bill before the current one expires September 30. Top leaders on both sides of the aisle quickly engaged in finger-pointing. Republicans say House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi failed to deliver the Democrat votes she promised, while Democrats pin the blame on the GOP for its inability to bring enough support from the more than 60 members within its own party who opposed the bill.
Iowa Representative Bruce Braley, one of the few Democrats to support the bill, says he's angry and frustrated that members of the House failed to recognize the importance of passing a bill to support farmers and rural America. "While this farm bill was far from perfect, the best way to fix its flaws is to work together to find common ground, not reject it entirely and start from nothing," he says. Iowa's other three representatives in the U.S. House also voted for the bill.
Disagreement on $2 billion proposed cut in food stamps has Democrats and Republicans at odds
The Senate bill would collectively reduce spending by about $2.4 billion annually, compared with $3.8 billion in the failed House bill. Almost half the savings in the House bill would have come from a reduction in food stamp spending, the first major overhaul to that program since 1996. The food stamp program is now called SNAP—the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
The Senate and House bills were similar when it comes to farm policy issues, with both bills streamlining conservation programs, expanding the federally subsidized crop insurance program, and slashing subsidy payments to farmers—including the elimination of the $5 billion a year in direct payments paid to farmers. In a bid to help Southern farmers who depend on direct payments, each bill would set higher support prices for rice and peanut farmers, meaning growers would see those subsidy payments kick in sooner. But the divide between the House and Senate on food stamps will likely continue to be a sticking point in determining whether the farm bill passes.
Farm groups express disappointment at House bill's defeat, which leaves them struggling to plan ahead without knowing what U.S. agricultural policy will be
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a former governor of Iowa, released this statement about the defeat of the U.S. House version of a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill:
"The failure by the House leadership, for the second year in a row, to reach consensus on a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill is a tremendous disappointment for all Americans. Twice now, the U.S. Senate has done its job and passed balanced, comprehensive legislation with overwhelming bipartisan support. Unfortunately, the House version of this bill would have unfairly denied food assistance for millions of struggling families and their children, while failing to achieve needed reforms or critical investments to continue economic consensus."
National Corn Growers Association president Pam Johnson, farming with her family in northeast Iowa, said in response to the House of Representatives failing to pass the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (2013 farm bill): "NCGA is extremely disappointed to see the House of Representatives fail to pass the 2013 farm bill. Up to the last minute our organization actively and consistently called for passage of the legislation. We will continue to be engaged in all efforts needed to secure passage in the House and bring the bill to Conference."~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
Iowa Corn Growers Association disappointment in lingering Farm Bill
The Iowa Corn Growers Association expressed disappointment on the U.S. House action to reject the 2013 Farm Bill. "The 2013 Farm Bill vote was close and we have made every effort to be pro-active on our part as farmers to put policy in place to move the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act—the official name of the 2013 Farm Bill--to passage," says Bruce Rohwer, ICGA president and a farmer from northwest Iowa. "We've worked with our national organization to put the ink on this crucial farm legislation and we are extremely disappointed in the House outcome. We thank our entire Iowa delegation for their support of this important legislation."
Iowa Soybean Association is also quite frustrated with Farm Bill defeat
Leaders of the Iowa Soybean Association are also disappointed with the U.S. House of Representatives inability to pass a new farm bill. "With a vote of 195 to 234, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 was defeated last week," notes Ray Gaesser, a farmer from Corning, who serves on the ISA board of directors. He says ISA leaders and other Iowa farmers appreciate the support from Iowa's congressional delegation. Iowa's four congressmen--Bruce Braley (D), David Loebsack (D), Tom Latham (R) and Steve King (R)--all voted in favor of the bill.
Gaesser is vice-president of the American Soybean Association, an organization that also expressed disappointment in the U.S. House action. "We're not sure of the next steps, but do know that we'll continue to work with other groups and our congressional delegation to help create the bill that farmers and consumers need," says Gaesser.
U.S. farmers now face the expiration of farm bill programs on September 30
The Iowa Corn Growers Association supported final passage of the legislation and all four of Iowa's Representatives voted in support of the bill, points out Rohwer. Most Democrats opposed the bill, unhappy with the $20.5 billion, 10-year cut to food stamps and backed by a White House veto threat. Republicans split into competing camps, with a sizable group opposing the bill over concerns it did not cut deeply enough. A total of 62 Republicans voted against the bill, while 24 Democrats supported it.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
Because of the unexpected failure, it is unclear at this time what the House will do in the future on the farm bill. Crop insurance and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) will continue without passage of the farm bill, but everything else will require a one-year extension which is uncertain at this point. The current farm bill is set to expire on September 30.
There were 103 amendments debated on the Farm Bill. Before the vote on the bill's final passage, a number of amendments of importance to corn growers were debated and either voted on or withdrawn, says Mindy Larson Poldberg, director of government affairs for ICGA. She offers the following explanation of what happened.
Some highlights of the 103 amendments that were debated on the Farm Bill
Amendment #2: The Gibbs amendment set the target price for all crops at 55% of the 5 year rolling Olympic average in the Price Loss Coverage Program. This addressed ICGA concerns by providing for payments on historical crop acreage bases rather than on current-year plantings. These changes would have made the new Price Loss Coverage program more market-oriented and significantly reduce the risk of the market distorting planting decisions and production. The amendment achieved an estimated $12 billion in savings in addition to the committee bill. ICGA supported the amendment but the amendment was withdrawn.
Amendment #7: The Graves amendment prohibited a farmer who sells corn, directly or through a third party, to an ethanol production facility from receiving any farm bill payments or benefits for soil and water conservation programs. ICGA opposed this amendment, and the amendment was withdrawn.
Amendment #13: The Thompson amendment would have linked soil conservation compliance to crop insurance much like the Senate language. ICGA policy states the best implementation method for conservation compliance is through a Title 1 program, not crop insurance. If conservation compliance must be tied to crop insurance, the language in this amendment is supported. This amendment was withdrawn.
Amendment #16: The Chabot amendment struck USDA's Market Access Program. This program, known as MAP, forms a highly successful partnership between non-profit U.S. agricultural trade associations, farmer cooperatives, non-profit state-regional trade groups, small businesses, and USDA. This program shares the costs of international marketing and promotion activities--consumer promotions, market research, trade shows and trade servicing. ICGA opposed this amendment; the amendment failed 98 to 322.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
Amendment #45: The Walorski amendment would have continued the prohibition on the Christmas tree "tax" (i.e. checkoff program). ICGA opposed and the amendment failed 197 to 227.
Amendment #47: The Kind amendment would have limited premium subsidies to those producers with an Average Gross Income under $250,000 and limited per person premium subsidies to $50,000. ICGA opposed this. The amendment failed 208 to 217.
Amendment #56: The Crawford amendment would have modified the exemption levels of EPA's Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure rules for small farms and ranchers. ICGA supported this, and the amendment passed on a voice vote.
Amendment #100: The Fortenberry amendment would have reduced farm program payment limits, by capping commodity payments at $250,000. ICGA opposed this and the amendment passed 230 to 194.
National Pork Producers Council supports a 5-year Farm Bill, not a one year extension
The U.S. House of Representatives' failure to approve the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 is disappointing, says a press release from the National Pork Producers Council, headquartered in Des Moines. The measure did not include the "Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments," or Egg Bill, pushed by the Humane Society of the United States and strongly opposed by NPPC. The bill did include several provisions backed by NPPC, including an amendment sponsored by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, that prohibits states from dictating production restrictions on agricultural goods sold within their own borders but produced in other states.
The bill also included a provision sponsored by Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, to prevent the federal Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration or GIPSA from doing further work on the so-called GIPSA Rule related to livestock contracts.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
NPPC expressed strong disappointment with the defeat of the Farm Bill and urges the House leadership to craft a bill that benefits U.S. agriculture and to approve it before September 30 when the current Farm Bill expires. NPPC supports a 5-year Farm Bill that strengthens the U.S. pork industry's competitiveness, funds operational costs for a comprehensive surveillance system and robust research, retains funding for ag trade promotion and provides an economic safety net for farmers. The House leadership is likely to meet early next week (the last week of June) to discuss next steps.
Farm bill defeat is a blow to dairy farmers, says Dairy Farmers of America
John Wilson, senior vice president of Dairy Farmers of America, says: "Despite the ag community's best effort, with a vote of 195–234 the U.S. House of Representatives failed to pass a Farm Bill last week. Earlier in the day on June 20, the Goodlatte-Scott amendment stripped the Dairy Market Stabilization Program from the underlying bill.
"Regardless of the loss on Goodlatte-Scott, Dairy Farmers of America remained supportive of final passage of the Farm Bill to keep the momentum going on a bill that is vital to so many aspects of the American agriculture sector. Farm families across the nation rely on the provisions in the Farm Bill, and that they will continue to operate under outdated and inadequate policies is truly disappointing.
"DFA members joined farmers across the nation in voicing support of this Farm Bill, and their engagement was instrumental in securing needed dairy policy reform in the version of the bill brought to the floor. Although the House vote on the bill has been disappointing, the dairy industry has shown its resiliency in the past, and continued optimism and action is the only option as we look to the future. We express sincere thanks to all who made calls, attended meetings and sent important emails to their legislators. This participation is imperative as we look to the future and make dairy policy reform a reality.
"The dairy industry has many advocates on Capitol Hill and we owe our appreciation to those in Congress who supported our efforts. I'm confident this support will not falter as we continue our pursuit of meaningful dairy policy reform."