On yet another government shutdown eve, let’s take a look at another Congressional failure that stretches back to last year: Getting a new Farm Bill done.
Earlier this month, all the talk in D.C. was about another extension. The problem with extensions like that passed amid the “Fiscal Cliff” debate earlier this year is that the progress which has been made in the U.S. Senate and at the committee-level in the House on moving away from direct payments is lost. Conservation programs are another huge loser in the extension game.
Roger Johnson, NFU president, said of the extension talks, ““An extension will not solve the issue of uncertainty that U.S. family farmers and ranchers are facing each day that we continue to not have a new farm bill. If Congress again extends current law, indefensible policies such as direct payments to farmers regardless of commodity prices will continue, costing $8 to 10 billion over the next two years.”
Later this month, House Republicans separated the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), aka Food Stamps, from the Farm Bill. Long a way to build bridges between rural and urban interests, the robust nutrition title of the Farm Bill has been an important component of getting both programs done every four years. Although the House bill passed out of committee already cut SNAP by $40 billion, the Tea Party faction of the GOP in Congress got their way. In a nutshell, this meant that a Farm Bill without SNAP lost massive Democratic and moderate Republican support. Still no Farm Bill.
“NFU is disappointed with the result of today’s vote. Stripping nutrition programs from the farm bill was a mistake from the beginning. The level of cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program included in the legislation not only denies benefits to four million low-income Americans, but is also sure to make the conference process more difficult. It is time for the House to take meaningful action. House leadership must appoint conferees right away so that the stalled comprehensive 2013 Farm Bill can be finalized and enacted as soon as possible,” said Johnson.
Fast forward to now. According to NFU, the House has passed a new rule on taking up the Farm Bill with the link between farm and nutrition programs restored.
“Today’s actions should pave the way for the farm bill to be completed this year. Extending the 2008 Farm Bill again is not an adequate solution. While it is obvious we will not have a completed farm bill by its expiration on Sept. 30, I urge House leadership to appoint conferees so that the process of conferencing the Senate and House versions of the bill can begin right away,” Johnson said.
“NFU will continue to advocate for a five-year, comprehensive farm bill to be completed in the next month.”
Just as at the end of August, we need the House to appoint conferees so that the Senate and House versions of the Farm Bill may be reconciled. There will surely arise the need for yet another vote in the Senate and another vote in the House on the conference report of the bill, but this is how the process works. After more than a year of dickering, family farmers deserve compromise in Washington, it’s time to finish this Farm Bill.