The House of Representatives passed its agriculture appropriations bill by a largely partisan, 217 to 203 vote Thursday afternoon following a week of intense debate and maneuvering.
The bill, H.R. 2112, was passed by the House’s Appropriations Committee on May 31 and included dramatic cuts to agriculture research and a series of amendments that would modify 2008 Farm Bill adjusted gross income (AGI) limits and payments to Brazil as part of a World Trade Organization case settlement.
Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) protested those amendments at the bill’s hearing before the Rules Committee on Monday, arguing they were out of the regular order, in effect trying to legislate via an appropriations bill.
Ultimately, votes on the House floor were unsuccessful on the AGI issue and a similar amendment that would have capped total benefits a farmer could receive at $125,000.
An amendment from Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) to prohibit funding for implementation of the Market Access Program (MAP) failed by a solid margin in a 101 to 314 vote.
In the final series, two votes to cut discretionary spending across the board also failed.
However, an amendment from Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) to effectively defund the settlement payments to the Brazil Cotton Institute passed in a 223 to 197 vote, creating an enormous problem for many U.S. exporting industries should the Senate adopt a similar measure.
The final bill cut discretionary spending by more than 13 percent, which follows severe cuts in the FY2011 budget, particularly in areas like research. Since FY2010, USDA’s research funding has been cut an estimated 20 percent.
Debate on the appropriations bill lasted much of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and largely centered on nutrition spending, which accounts for the vast majority of total bill outlays.
As preparations for the 2012 Farm Bill begin, both the deep cuts and the extended debate were reminders that there are many Members of Congress who are seeking to dramatically reduce spending for important agriculture-related programs.
NAWG asked its state associations and grower Board members to call their Members of Congress multiple times this week and appreciates those who undertook these vital grassroots outreach activities.
For its part, the Senate has yet to take up a budget resolution as leaders there wait for the outcome of ongoing negations to establish a long-term plan to deal with the nation’s debt while raising the U.S. debt limit.
The status of all amendments to the House appropriations bill is accessible at http://repcloakroom.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=246543.