On Thursday July 11 the U.S. House of Representatives passed a farm title only version of the farm bill—known officially as HR 2642--by a vote of 216 to 208. The bill does not include a nutrition title, the popular food stamp program now used by 48 million Americans. The bill narrowly passed, and voting was largely along party lines. A dozen Republicans voted against the measure while no Democrats voted in favor. Iowa's representatives were split along party lines.
The House version of the new farm bill focuses solely on farm programs and would delay, at least for now, efforts to overhaul the nation's food stamp program that in recent years has made up 80% of spending in the Farm Bill. Representatives say this 2013 Farm Bill process hasn't been easy and admit they still have a long way to go to get a new Farm Bill signed into law. Next step is to get the House Bill into a conference committee with the Senate and work out the differences between the House version and Senate version, to come up with a bill to send to President Obama to sign into law.
House lawmakers last month failed to pass a 5-year, $500 billion farm bill that would have made the biggest cuts to the food-stamp program, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. That proposed legislation was defeated after Republicans in the House pushed for deeper cuts in SNAP spending, drawing the opposition of Democrats who feared too many poor people would no longer be eligible to receive food stamps.
White House issues statement saying it would veto the bill if it omits SNAP spending
Democrats in the House opposed splitting the bill. They criticized House Republican leaders for not giving them enough time to review the "farm only" bill and expressed fears that removing SNAP spending would hurt American families that depend on food stamps. The While House has indicated President Obama would veto the 608-page farm bill the House is now proposing, because it doesn't have the SNAP spending and does not contain sufficient commodity and crop insurance reforms.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
Here's what Iowa farm and commodity organizations and Iowa ag leaders had to say in press releases they issued last Thursday and Friday.
Iowa Corn Growers Association is not in favor of having a partial farm bill
The Iowa Corn Growers Association was not supportive of the procedure to split the two titles because President Obama has indicated he will veto any legislation that does not include nutrition, but ICGA has been encouraging the passage of a new 5-year farm bill by whatever means possible. ICGA does not have a position on the nutrition title. During the farm bill vote, House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas told members that the committee would take up a nutrition bill at a later point.
The House version of the farm bill replaces the permanent commodity law from 1949 by making the 2013 law the new permanent law, an issue that has not had any hearings nor had been discussed by the House Agriculture Committee. The bill will now be conferenced with the Senate version passed earlier this year which includes a nutrition title. ICGA will continue to work with conference committee members to advocate for ICGA's top farm bill priorities, and ICGA will provide updates to members as they occur.
NCGA urged House to pass split farm bill in order to get the bill to a conference committee with Senate--to hopefully come up with a better bill
National Corn Growers Association president Pam Johnson, a farmer from Floyd County in northeast Iowa, released the following statement in response to the House of Representatives voting on the split version of the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (2013 farm bill). Johnson's statement was released before the House voted on Thursday and eventually passed the bill:
"The farm bill affects every American; those who eat and those who produce. We view the proposed actions to be taken on the floor of the House today with disappointment. Legislation that for decades has been a bright spot for how our Congress should work--in a bipartisan, bicameral manner--is now stuck in a morass of petty bickering and political gamesmanship. We do not believe that the link between farm programs and nutrition programs should be severed. We see benefits beyond the political in keeping the ties between those who produce food and those who need it."~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
"Moreover, we have serious disagreement with Title I of the legislation the House will consider today. We should not miss the opportunity to work towards meaningful reform of agricultural policy that is more market oriented and less costly to the American taxpayer. Additionally we oppose the move to repeal the 1949 permanent farm bill law. The actions surrounding the deliberation of this farm bill prove that the Congress must have some mechanism to force action.
"While we disagree with the policies of the legislation and are dismayed with the process that leads us to this sad situation, we see no other way to move the farm bill to a conference with the Senate unless the House approves the bill before it today. We urge members of the House to approve the bill and we expect immediate action by a conference committee to secure a 5-year farm bill we can support. However, our action in no way reflects our approval of its contents or the manner in which it came to the floor. Unless significant change is made to the bill in the conference committee, we will strongly urge its rejection by the Senate and the House." The House passed the split version later that day.
Iowa Soybean Association not in favor of partial Farm Bill, sees need to include nutrition programs along with farm programs in the final bill
Iowa Soybean Association farmers and staff leaders were clear in their discussions with Congressional leaders in Washington, D.C., this past week: "We don't want to see the Farm Bill split." But on Thursday July 11 in a party-line vote of 216-208, the House of Representatives passed a stripped-down version of the 2013 Farm Bill, containing only farm programs. The "split" cuts the nutrition title from the bill, instead of striking a balance among agriculture, conservation and nutrition.
"We wanted a bill that meets the needs of farmers and consumers. Farmers work to raise food to feed people, so the nutrition element made sense to us," said Ray Gaesser, a farmer from Corning in southwest Iowa. He serves on the ISA board of directors and is a vice-president of the American Soybean Association. "A unified bill would have had a better chance of passing and helping all Americans, both rural and urban, be successful in the future."~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
Gaesser added that soybean groups are concerned that part of last Thursday's vote—if this bill eventually is signed into law--will repeal the 1949 "permanent" ag law, which reverts back to parity prices established around 1914. "Adjusted for inflation, this would cause government support prices to rise substantially," says Gaesser. "This really holds a club over people's heads to get a new Farm Bill passed soon. There is still more work to be done." U.S. farmers face the expiration of current farm bill programs on September 30, 2013.
Iowa Farm Bureau disappointed in decision by U.S. House to pass a split farm bill
The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa's largest grassroots farm organization, expressed disappointment in the House passage of a split Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act, widely known as the 2013 Farm Bill, that would separate nutrition and farm programs, while repealing permanent farm law. The leader of the statewide organization says Iowa farmers have waited long enough, and the gridlock in Washington D.C. needs to end, regarding debate on a new farm bill.
"Repealing permanent farm law leaves little incentive for Congress to complete future bills in a timely fashion. The House leaders need to understand that removing permanent farm law leaves farmers, and the food they produce, vulnerable," says Craig Hill, IFBF president and a farmer from Warren County in south central Iowa. "The key part of the farm bill has been the traditional alliance of nutrition and farm stakeholders, so splitting this alliance weakens the rural voice in this vital debate."
Farm leaders have waited months for any movement on the farm bill in the U.S. House, and while unconventional, this action today by the House is one step closer to going to conference with the Senate. "It is our fervent hope that House leaders will follow through with a nutrition bill so that the whole Farm Bill package can be completed," Hill adds. "For too long, political chasms in Washington over the Farm Bill have been casting a mood of uncertainty for farmers and agribusiness industries. Unfortunately, this House bill, as it has now been passed, does long-term harm to rural America and defeats the overall goal of a negotiated bill that benefits all Americans."