House passes farm bill, minus SNAP extension

by Jeff Gelski
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WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 216 to 208 on July 11 passed a revised Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013, although it did not contain an extension for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that includes food stamps.

“Our farm and food stamp programs need reform,” said Speaker of the House John Boehner. “The status quo is unacceptable, which is why I voted against most of the farm bills of the past two decades and supported this one. I’m pleased the House took a positive first step forward in providing some much-needed reforms to our farm programs today.”

The farm bill authorizes farm programs for the next five years. The revised House farm bill contained no nutrition title. It also sought to repeal permanent law related to U.S. farm programs. The House leadership asserted farm programs and nutrition assistance programs should be considered separately despite opposition both from Democrats and an array of farm organizations and nutrition program advocates.

Republicans overwhelmingly (216 to 12) voted for the act. No Democrats in the House voted in favor of the act.

“The bill passed by the House today is not a real farm bill and is an insult to rural America, which is why it’s strongly opposed by more than 500 farm, food and conservation groups,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. “We will go to conference with the bipartisan, comprehensive farm bill that was passed in the Senate that not only reforms programs, supports families in need and creates agriculture jobs, but also saves billions more than the extremely flawed House bill.”

The current farm bill, the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, expires on Sept. 20, 2013.

The U.S. Senate passed its version of the farm bill, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act, on June 10 of this year. It extended the SNAP. The House of Representatives on June 20 rejected by a vote of 234 to 195 the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013. Democrats overwhelmingly (172 to 24) voted against that bill on June 20, primarily because it would have cut spending on the SNAP by $20.5 billion over 10 years.

After the House farm bill passed on July 11, Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said the A.F.B.F. looked forward to moving ahead with fundamental farm policy legislation.

“While we don’t know yet 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,” Mr. Stallman said. “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.”

Representative Frank Lucas of Oklahoma, chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, said in response to the passage of the revised farm bill, “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. 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.”

Representative Collin Peterson, ranking member of the agriculture committee, voted against the bill, stating, “The House Majority’s decision to ignore the will of the more than 500 organizations with a stake in the farm bill, setting the stage for draconian cuts to nutrition programs and eliminating future farm bills altogether would be laughable if it weren’t true.

“This was not the only option. Following the House failure to pass a comprehensive, bipartisan, five-year farm bill, I repeatedly expressed a willingness to work with the Majority on a path forward. I firmly believed that if we could find a way to remove the partisan amendments adopted during the House farm bill debate we would be able to advance a bipartisan bill, conference with the Senate and see it signed into law this year. Now all that is in question.”

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