House Passes Split Farm Bill

July 11, 2013 — The House passed a version of the Farm Bill  (HR 2642) on Thursday, July 11, after splitting out nutrition/feeding programs.  The 216-208 vote was strictly along partisan lines, after a rancorous debate on  the House floor between Republicans and Democrats, according to Bob Gray, editor  of the Northeast Dairy Farmers Cooperatives newsletter.

The bill contains 11 of the 12 titles of the  original Farm Bill voted down by the House in late June. House leadership  removed the nutrition title, which includes the food stamp program (SNAP) and  other programs.

The House version includes the Goodlatte-Scott  dairy policy proposal, and not the Dairy Security Act approved by the Senate.  Commodity, conservation, research, rural development and other titles from the  previously considered Farm Bill remain.

The bill also repeals “permanent farm bill law”  which includes the 1949 and 1938 laws.

Divided in the House, passage of this version of  the Farm Bill was also divided in dairy.

NMPF  responds

“The  farm bill passed today by the House of Representatives is seriously flawed, in  that it contains the Goodlatte-Scott dairy amendment, as well as a repeal of  permanent agricultural law,” said Jerry Kozak, president and CEO, of the  National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF). “Neither of these measures  serves the best long-term interests of dairy farmers. The Senate, by contrast,  overwhelmingly passed the complete Dairy  Security Act, which the National Milk Producers Federation and nearly  all dairy farmers enthusiastically supported.

“Nevertheless,  today’s action means that there is still hope that a new farm bill can be passed  in 2013,” Kozak continued. “Without any progress toward a Senate-House  conference committee, we were looking at yet another one-year extension of  current programs, which is unacceptable. Today’s vote means that agricultural  leaders now can work on improving the House bill and developing better dairy  policy than what exists now, and what is contained in this House bill.

“The  bill today is not the end of the process, but rather a means to a better end  that we will continue working with lawmakers to achieve,” Kozak added. “NMPF  appreciates all the efforts put forth by Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking  Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) to try to move a 5-year farm bill through the  House of Representatives by bipartisan means last month. We are committed to  working with these two champions for agriculture through the conference process  in the coming weeks. We urge the conference committee to include the Dairy  Security Act.”

IDFA  pleased

As  expected, Jerry Slominski, International Dairy Foods Association senior vice  president of legislative and economic affairs, had a different take on the dairy  title.

“Today’s  passage of the Farm Bill by the House of Representatives brings us one step  closer to historic dairy policy reform and proves that we can help dairy farmers  without raising the prices of dairy products for consumers and for government  programs,” Slominski said. “Although today’s vote was close due to differences  over the SNAP program, the Farm Bill now passed by the House includes the  Goodlatte-Scott amendment, which was passed by a margin of more than 2-1,  291-135, and was supported by nearly all Republicans and almost half of the  Democrats.

“The  House-passed version of the Farm Bill will allow our industry to continue to  grow and create thousands more jobs,” Slominski said. “The Senate-passed version  of the Farm Bill, however, continues to include the divisive milk supply  management policy that is opposed by national consumer groups, supermarket  chains, restaurants, taxpayers, the Teamsters union and many dairy producers,  including the second-largest dairy cooperative.

“We  support the aid to dairy farmers in the House bill, but we oppose the Senate  dairy package,” Slominski added. “We will continue to educate the Senate and  House conferees, showing that we can help dairy farmers through difficult  economic times without making it more difficult for millions of families to  afford healthy and nutritious dairy products.”

DFA:  Progress is bittersweet

“While  today’s progress toward a Farm Bill is welcome, it is unfortunate that this  movement comes with a bill that does not contain the Dairy Security Act (DSA),”  said John Wilson, senior vice president of dairy farmers of America (DFA). “H.R.  2642, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013, falls  short on many fronts.

“It  is truly disappointing that this omission was the only way to move this bill  forward through a divided House of Representatives,” Wilson continued. “Given  that the Farm Bill affects not only the rural economy, but the nation’s economy  as a whole, it is unfortunate that bi-partisan support has been so difficult to  achieve.

“However,  we remain hopeful that conference negotiations with the Senate bill, which does  contain the DSA, will yield a dairy program we can embrace,” Wilson added. “The development of this Farm Bill and specifically reforms in dairy  programs has required extraordinary patience, negotiation and perseverance by  Congressional Agricultural Committee leaders, dairy farmers and others in  agriculture. We urge party leadership in both the House and Senate to quickly  name conferees and bring this bill to finalization.”

Farm  Bureau

Since  nutrition programs were split out of the bill, Bob Stallman, president of the  American Farm Bureau Federation, was uncertain what happens next.

“The  American Farm Bureau Federation looks forward to moving ahead with fundamental  farm policy legislation, following House passage today of H.R. 2642,” he said.  “While we don’t yet know what the next steps will be, we 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,” Stallman concluded.

Lawmakers  partisan

“Today  was an important step toward enacting a five-year farm bill this year that gives  our farmers and ranchers certainty, provides regulatory relief to small  businesses across the country, significantly reduces spending, and makes  common-sense, market-oriented reforms to agricultural policy,” said House Ag  Committee chair Lucas. “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.”

However,  U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.), who joined his fellow Democrats in opposition to  the bill, said separation of nutrition and food assistance programs from the  Farm Bill resulted in “legislation even more flawed than the Farm Bill that was  rejected by the House last month, and was also presented under a closed rule  which effectively shut down debate and denied any opportunity to amend the  bill.”

“This  bill, like the one rejected last month, failed to include the type of reform  needed to make our agriculture policies more fiscally responsible and responsive  to the needs of farmers,” said Kind. “I attempted to include those reforms in  this new bill, but was shut out from the process by a House majority more  interested in appeasing big agribusiness than in protecting taxpayers and family  farmers.”

Kind  said this is the first time in over four decades that a Farm Bill has come to  the floor under a completely closed rule, and the first time in history that  such a bill comes to the floor with no legislative hearing or markup. He said  the 600-page legislation was rushed to the floor without enough time for members  to read and review it.

“The  last thing our farmers need to contend with is a dysfunctional Congress playing  political games with their livelihood,” concluded Kind. “Our farmers need a  comprehensive, five-year Farm Bill, and families in every community across this  country need access to basic nutrition. This bill failed on both counts.”

This article was written and edited by Dave Natzke, DairyBusiness Communications.


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