House approves farm-only farm bill

Published on: Jul 11, 2013

The U.S. House of Representatives managed to pass a modified farm bill by a vote of 216-208, which included 11 of the 12 titles and all 60 amendments previously approved by the House earlier this summer. The bill was an attempt for Republicans to send a bill to conference with the Senate in negotiating comprehensive farm bill legislation, but sets up unchartered territory.

The bill made two significant changes to the bill which narrowly was defeated 195-234 on June 20. The first, was eliminating the nutrition title, which House Agriculture Committee chairman Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) said was the most difficult to reach consensus.

The other significant change in the bill is a repeal of 1938 and 1949 permanent law provisions which call for policy to revert back to commodity price parity and government quotas, which has always been used as a hammer to force Congress to act. It instead makes the 2013 Title I permanent law going forward. 

The 608-page rule was introduced Wednesday night and no amendments were allowed on the floor, which upset Democrats. Democrats used several procedural moves during the floor debate. In the end, not one Democrat voted in favor the bill. (View the roll call vote.)

Splitting the farm bill by stripping the nutrition title is unprecedented and sends the House in "unchartered territory with more landmines than usual," said Dave Ladd, president of RDL & Associates. "I don't know how you can get a bill out of conference that can pass again out of both bodies."

He explained that House leadership has already had some significant embarrassments in guiding the farm bill. Now it seems even more difficult to come out of conference committee that has no statement from the House on the level of nutrition cuts and pass without significant level of Democratic support.

The urban and rural coalition has helped pass farm bills since 1965. Last week over 500 organizations voiced opposition to splitting the bill, including powerhouse groups such as the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union. After the House proceeded anyway, some groups reluctantly backed the House's move to get a bill to conference with the Senate.

National Farmers Union president Roger Johnson said the "strictly partisan vote to pass the farm bill apart from the nutrition title undermines the long-time coalition of support for a unified, comprehensive farm bill which has historically been written on a bipartisan basis. Any final legislation must continue existing permanent law provisions and include meaningful safety net protections for both family farmers facing difficult times and the food insecure.”

AFBF president Bob Stallman, noted that although the next steps are unknown, AFBF 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.”

Peterson voiced strong opposition on the floor to the bill, and said the whole process turned him partisan, which is hard to do for the Blue Dog Democrat who is known for working across party lines.

"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,” Peterson said following the vote.

Senate Agriculture Committee chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) called the bill passed out of the House, "not a real farm bill" and an "insult to rural America" as it was 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.”

Lucas said, "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."