House prepares for today's farm bill debate

Published on: Jun 19, 2013

After hearing hours of testimony from House members Tuesday, the House Rules Committee will allow a total of 103 amendments to be debated as part of the House consideration of its farm bill Wednesday and Thursday.

A total of 230 amendments were filed on the bill. House Agriculture Committee chairman Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) had previously anticipated 30-40 amendments would be approved as part of the debate. However, the 103 will prove to require more time, and potential drag final votes out to next week if legislators aren't able to wrap up the bill by 3 p.m. Thursday afternoon when the House is scheduled to recess for two days.

Debate is expected to start on the rule about noon Wednesday, followed by a vote at 1 p.m. EST on the rule. Amendment debate is scheduled to start around 1:30 p.m. until 5:30. A vote likely will occur about that time on all amendments debated up to that point. A statement from Lucas's office said "We do have en bloc authority and expect to vote on an en bloc amendment." This allows the chairman to introduce a group of amendments together that would receive an up or down vote.

All of the approved amendments (which can be viewed here) will receive 10 minutes of debate, except for five amendments which are the most controversial and will receive 20 minutes of debate. These amendments will address restoring the $20.5 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), sugar reform, Rep. Bob Goodlatte's alternative dairy program, significant crop insurance reform from Rep. Ron Kind (R., Wisc.), and an amendment that would mirror the President's suggestion on how to deliver food aid which limits the amount of U.S. purchased food that will be shipped.

Specifically the crop insurance amendment limits premium subsidies to those producers with an Adjusted Gross Income under $250,000 and limits per person premium subsidies to $50,000 and caps crop insurance providers’ reimbursement of administrative and operating at $900 million and reduces their rate of return to 12%.

Other important amendments that will be debated include an amendment from Rep. Bob Gibbs (R., Ohio) that sets the target prices for all crops at 55% of the five-year rolling Olympic average. Midwest commodities such as soybean, corn, sunflower and canola growers have supported this amendment. Gibbs explained the groups are supportive of lower target prices because they want to ensure the market makes planting determinations, not a government program.

An amendment from Rep. Virginia Foxx (R., N.C.) caps spending on the bill at 110% of the Congressional Budget Office-predicted levels for the first five years of the farm bill so taxpayers "won't be forced to pay another costly Washington mistake."

Rep. Tom Graves (R., Ga.) has an amendment that ensures corn growers who sell their crop for ethanol production may not receive farm payments.

One of many amendments that was filed but will not be debated is an amendment to establish the egg production standards called for between an agreement with the United Egg Producers and The Humane Society of the United States. Rep. Kurt Schrader (D., Ore.) pleaded with the Rules Committee to allow his amendment to come up for a vote, saying that egg producers' "livelihood was at stake" and without a national standard many would go out of business.

Other livestock groups and the American Farm Bureau Federation had threated to derail the entire farm bill if the egg production standards were included in the final product.

The President has suggested a veto of the House farm bill as it currently stands because of its level of cuts to the SNAP program and not including the cuts to the crop insurance program he has called for within his budget requests.

The Senate passed its version earlier in June. If the House passes its bill, the two would need to reconcile differences in a conference and then each chamber would again have to vote on a final package.