By Matt Reese
To say that the farm bill will be an uphill battle in the House may be an understatement, yet agricultural groups are holding out hope for some definitive action this year. Speaker of the House and Ohioan John Boehner does not have a track record of support for farm bills and the list of amendments for the House bill may make the bogged down process in the Senate look like a cakewalk.
With clear challenges ahead, late last night, the House Agriculture Committee approved H.R. 6083, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act of 2012 by a vote of 35-11. From here, the bill will hopefully move to the House floor for debate. Then, if it passes the House, the differences will have to be hashed out between the Senate and the House versions of the farm bill in conference before going to the President for a final signature.
The House version cuts $12 billion more from the food stamps program than a Senate version, which is going to present challenges in hashing out a final version of the bill.
“On the House side, it is definitely about the budget. That will be the trouble coming together,” said Bret Davis, president of the Ohio Soybean Association. “We went in and stated our case to about 14 of our Representatives yesterday. They listened and they are very open-minded about it. They said that the food and nutrition side was a budget buster. They are very hopeful of getting something out before the September 30 deadline.”
Davis, too, is hopeful.
“Things work slow, but when they do come to fruition they can move really fast. We hope they can get their heads together,” he said. “They do understand that if they do not get this passed, that it will affect the tax cuts and other things moving forward. They will have to come together to get something worked out. There are many issues out there and we want it to be fair and equitable for every crop, but we do need a safety net.”
Moving forward there is much work to be done.
“I’m pleased today’s markup is behind us and we can continue to move the process forward. The current farm bill expires on September 30 and there only 13 legislative days before the August recess,” said Ranking Member Collin Peterson. “Simply put, the House leadership needs to bring the farm bill to the floor for a vote. We should not jeopardize the health of our rural economies which, by and large, have remained strong the last few years. Our nation’s farmers and ranchers need the certainty of a new five year farm bill and they need it before the current farm bill ends.”
Some of the highlights include:
- FARRM saves more than $35 billion in mandatory funding.
- FARRM repeals or consolidates more than 100 programs.
- FARRM eliminates direct payments, streamlines and reforms commodity policy that saves taxpayers more than $14 billion.
- FARRM improves program integrity and accountability in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that saves taxpayers more than $16 billion.
- FARRM consolidates 23 conservation programs into 13, which improves program delivery to producers and saves taxpayers more than $6 billion.
- FARRM provides regulatory relief, including H.R. 872, to mitigate burdens farmers, ranchers, and rural communities face.