Through their farm organizations of choice, many Ohioans and farmers from around the country have logged countless hours in the battle to pass a farm bill. They couldn’t help but feel a bit frustrated with yesterday’s failure in the House of the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act with a vote of 195-234.
“I am relatively surprised by this. Going through the amendment process and Speaker Boehner coming out in support of this farm bill and saying publicly he was going to vote for it were signs that we did not have last year and it made many very optimistic for the passage of the farm bill this year. For it to fail by more than 40 votes is a very disappointing blow. Now it’s time to go back and regroup and figure out what Plan B might be,” said Tadd Nicholson with the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association. “If we don’t have a five-year farm bill, it limits producers’ ability to look forward and plan for their business in the way they know best. I really even hate to predict what the next step for Congress might be on this.”
Crop and livestock producers alike were hoping for the long term certainty of a five-year farm bill as the expiration deadline of the current farm bill extension looms large this fall.
“We are very disappointed by this result. Ohio soybean farmers need a five-year farm bill in place to provide certainty for their operations and ensure that safety net programs are in place,” said Jerry Bambauer Ohio Soybean Association president and soybean farmer from Auglaize County. “As a result of the failure to pass the bill out of the House of Representatives, Ohio’s family farmers have been let down and will not see the benefits this bill would have provided. We ask that both parties find a way to work together immediately on behalf of the 24,000 soybean farmers in Ohio who contribute so much to the economy and food supply for all Americans.”
There is already partisan political blame coming from both sides of the aisle. U.S. House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin C. Peterson, D-Minn., was quick to blame Republicans for the failure.
“The farm bill failed to pass the House today because the House Republicans could not control the extreme right wing of their party. From day one I cautioned my colleagues that to pass a farm bill we would have to work together. Instead, the House adopted a partisan amendment process, playing political games with extreme policies that have no chance of becoming law,” Peterson said. “This flies in the face of nearly four years of bipartisan work done by the Agriculture Committee. I’ll continue to do everything I can to get a farm bill passed but I have a hard time seeing where we go from here.”
Yet, at the same time, Democrats were very clear about their lack of support for the deep cuts in the nutrition funding in the bill. Going into the vote, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that she was unlikely to support the bill due to the estimated $20.5 billion in cuts and reforms of the nutrition title’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program (SNAP), also known as the food stamp program. The level of SNAP funding cuts were also a significant area of contention in the 2012 farm bill debate and promise to be an issue in any future conference of the bill between the House and Senate.
“It is unconscionable that as a nation, we seek to balance the federal budget on the backs of hungry people, many of whom are children, seniors or workers struggling to provide for their families. In Ohio, the latest figures show more than 1.8 million people rely on SNAP which provides an average benefit of $1.50 per meal. This already meager amount includes a temporary increase in benefits established by the 2009 Recovery Act which will expire at the end of October of this year,” said Ohio Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, a Democrat who voted against the bill. “While a comprehensive farm bill is critically important to provide certainty for U.S. farmers, ranchers, consumers and other nutrition program providers, I could not support a bill that irresponsibly hurts so many vulnerable Americans.”
AUDIO – Congressman Bob Gibbs (R) from Ohio’s 7th Congressional District also weighed in on yesterday’s Farm Bill vote and discusses the possibility of separating the Ag programs and Food Stamp Programs into two different bills.
In the final vote, most Democrats voted against the farm bill due to the deep cuts of the food stamp program. But somewhat more surprising is that 62 Republicans voted against it because it didn’t cut spending enough. Speaker John Boehner is caught in the middle.
Jon Doggett, the National Corn Growers Association vice president of public policy, made a prediction about the farm bill debate and Washington politics back in February of 2012 that continues to bog down the political process.
“The right is further right and the left is further left,” Doggett told a group from the OCWGA on a lobbying trip. “The Tea Party is pushing Republicans further right. The same thing, but maybe not to the same degree, is happening with the left. Things are really changing. This is the biggest change I’ve seen in the 25 years I’ve been in Washington.”
With strengthening extremes dominating the debate and little room left for the middle ground, more of the same can likely be expected for the future of the farm bill.