The farm bill ball is in House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) court following House Agriculture Committee approval of its version of new farm and food policy legislation early Thursday morning.
After a marathon mark-up ending just before 1 a.m., Committee Members voted 35 to 11 to favorably report the bill, officially known as H.R. 6083 or the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2012 (FARRM).
The bill would reauthorize a broad swath of federal food and farm programs, including the farm safety net and crop insurance; conservation, research and market development programs; regulatory clarifications related to pesticide application permitting; and domestic and international food programs. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) confirmed the bill would reduce spending by $35 billion over 10 years, including $14 billion from Title I, the highest proportion of any title.
Still, the bill has proved controversial primarily due to cuts to food stamps, now known as SNAP, and dairy program changes.
Tuesday evening, NAWG released a letter outlining the organization’s priorities for the bill before final House passage, including modifications to the Title I revenue program that would make it trigger at the farm-level.
Approved by the Committee, the bill now faces the hurdle of the House floor, beginning with securing floor time just a few legislative days before August recess and in a politically-charged election year.
As of Thursday afternoon, Boehner, who as Speaker maintains almost complete control over what is considered or not in the full House, declined to say whether the farm bill would come before the House in the current work period and expressed concerns about some of its provisions.
Getting the bill passed quickly is the top priority for most agriculture groups and many agriculture leaders in Congress. If the House’s bill is not approved before August recess begins, it will be almost impossible to finalize a new farm bill before the current law expires on Sept. 30, requiring an extension and pushing the farm bill debate into the post-election period.
The lack of certainty has led agriculture-focused Members to look for alternative paths to the finish line. There were multiple reports this week that if House leaders choose not to schedule floor time, the bill could progress to an informal conference run by Agriculture Committee leaders in both chambers.
In a statement released after the bill’s passage, NAWG President Erik Younggren, a farmer from northern Minnesota, stressed the importance of continued movement.
“We strongly encourage House Leadership to schedule floor time for the bill as soon as possible,” he said.
“My fellow farmers will begin planting winter wheat in just a couple of months. It is very important they and all farmers have an understanding of the farm safety net available to them when they make the substantial investments required for the new crop.
“In addition to crop insurance and Title I policies, the bill passed today includes important provisions with regards to conservation, research, food aid, marketing and nutrition that should not be subjected to the uncertainty of short-term extensions.”
NAWG’s full statement is available online at http://www.wheatworld.org/news-events/2012/07/wheat-growers-applaud-house-committee-passage-of-2012-farm-bill/.
Additional letters signed by NAWG before the mark-up are available at www.wheatworld.org/farmbill under “Statements and Testimony.”