The U.S. House of Representatives passed a scaled back farm bill on Thursday afternoon, though the process was somewhat messy. The bill was stripped of the Nutrition Title, and passed on a 216 to 208 vote.
National Hog Farmer’ssister publication, Delta Farm Press, provides an overview of the wrangling that occurred as the bill made its way through the process. In the Delta Farm Press article, author David Bennett says angry Democrats took to the floor to denounce the 608-page bill that they were presented with only hours earlier.
The Hill’s Floor Action Blog reports that passage by the House sets up the possibility of a conference with the Senate, which approved a farm bill that includes food stamp funding. A big issue in the conference will likely be how much to cut food stamps. The Senate bill makes cuts, but conservatives in the House want to go further.
The decision to eliminate food stamp funding from the bill led to opposition from the American Farm Bureau Federation and other groups, which lobbied furiously against the bill in the run-up to the vote.
Farm bills have historically included both farm subsidies and food stamps, which has allowed rural conservatives and urban liberals to unify around the bills. House Democrats warned that it's hard to see a path forward for the bill given Democratic demands that a bill include food stamps. If the bill does move forward, President Obama is expected to veto it.
According to The Hill, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA.) described the hard work that was necessary to win House passage as leading to a victory for farmers and conservatives who wanted reforms to farm programs.
"The work will now continue, and we hope Senate Democrats will not obstruct reform because the status quo isn't working," he said. "I regret that House Democrats chose to put politics ahead of farmers in this process, but am grateful our Republican conference forged ahead and kept their focus on the American people."
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) cast a rare vote in favor of the legislation and was quoted by The Hill saying he was pleased the House "took a positive first step forward in providing some much-need reforms to our farm programs." According to The Hill, the vote by Boehner was remarkable not only because Speakers rarely vote on legislation, but because Boehner has opposed farm bills in the past.
The response on the other side of the aisle was not so positive. “I believe the strategy of splitting the farm bill is a mistake,” House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson (D-MN.) said before the vote. “It jeopardizes the chances of it ever becoming law.” After the final tally, he said splitting the bill as a sign of dysfunction by the leadership and that there was no clear path to passing a House-Senate conferenced bill. "This is no different than we have looked for the last few months. It's why everybody hates us," he said.
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