Path to Final Farm Bill More Unclear Than Ever
Today the U.S. House passed a “partial” Farm Bill (HR 2642) on a vote of 216 to 208. House leadership separated nutrition programs and funding from the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act, which failed in the House last month. This allowed them to advance only portions of the bill related to agriculture under procedures that allowed for no amendments. HR 2642 garnered no Democratic votes and 12 Republicans voted against it.
The separation of nutrition initiatives such as the food stamps program from traditional farm program measures is highly unusual. It is a contentious move that was opposed by over 530 stakeholders, ranging from farm and conservation groups to banking and rural development interests.
HR 2642 also repealed and replaced “permanent farm law” — legislation that during the past several decades has been a consistent motivator in pushing Congress to pass new Farm Bills approximately every five years. Such creation of new legislation on a regular basis helps farm policy evolve as agriculture evolves. Many groups, including the Land Stewardship Project, fear that the removal of this “permanent law” will prompt Congress to use legislative extensions as their primary approach to farm policy. This all but eliminates the kind of robust debate on America’s food and agriculture system that can create good, innovative policy.
The Land Stewardship Project is disappointed with the proceedings that have produced this half-measure House Farm Bill today. We continue to believe America needs a comprehensive Farm Bill, and worry the piecemeal approach exercised in the House could make this task more daunting. We are trying to assess how realistic it is that this Farm Bill will even be brought to a conference committee with the comprehensive Senate Farm Bill passed on June 10.
Regardless, it will take both Republican and Democratic votes to achieve a final Farm Bill, and today’s decidedly partisan outcome does not bode well for such an outcome. Instead of building consensus and common ground to pass a Farm Bill, House leadership has taken a strictly partisan approach. American farmers, ranchers and citizens deserve a more open and fair lawmaking process.
In regards to the content of the House’s Farm Bill, the Land Stewardship Project continues to have serious objections to excessive cuts to conservation of nearly $7 billion, as well as lack of any limits on the enormous crop insurances subsidies, which are expected to grow another $10 billion to almost $100 billion over the next 10 years. More must be done to reform wasteful and unaccountable programs and spending.
Today’s House Farm Bill does not set the right tone in either content or method.
Adam Warthesen is an LSP organizer who works on federal policy. He can be reached at 612-722-6377 or firstname.lastname@example.org.