Despite concerns, farm bill picks up steam

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, June 18, 2013 - After speaking on the House floor Tuesday afternoon in support of a the 2013 farm bill, Congressman Rick Crawford, R-Ark., seemed upbeat about the potential for gaining more GOP votes.

“Given the support of the farm bill from both Speaker Boehner and Leader Cantor in recent days, several members seem to have more level of comfort in voting yes,” Crawford told Agri-Pulse. “I have a strong level of confidence that we will get this done.”

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“Several members see this (farm bill) as a good opportunity for reform and a good way to achieve significant savings,” added Crawford, who chairs the Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Livestock, Rural Development and Credit. Including the sequestration-related cuts, the legislation is expected to save $39.7 billion over the next ten years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

“As one member told me, this will be the beginning of reform, not the end.”

One reform that Crawford will be looking to oppose is an amendment from Reps. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, and Ron Kind, D-Wisc., that he described as “punitive” to the mid-south growers he represents.  The amendment would change the formula for reference prices in the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) option of the commodity title and would also provide for payments on historical crop acreage bases rather than on current-year plantings.

Whether the long- sought after reforms and the ability to vote on as many as 103 amendments attracts enough Republicans to reach the 218 votes needed for passage still seems unlikely.

However, Crawford also seemed confident that the Committee's ranking member, Collin Peterson, D-Minn., would win support from a few dozen Democrats who represent more rural districts.

Several Democrats representing urban districts expressed outrage during the Rules Committee farm bill debate regarding the $20.5 billion in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) cuts. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was quoted in “Politico” this week as saying she is “not likely” to support the bill. 

But other farm state Democrats are urging colleagues to advance the measure so that the level of SNAP cuts can be resolved in conference. The Senate version cuts SNAP by $4.5 billion.

Another issue generating anger in the Democratic caucus late Tuesday was a document, first published on ProFarmer.com, titled “House Farm Bill - Democratic Floor Strategy”.

Among other things, the document stated that the goal of the floor strategy was to: “Provide leverage for Democrats in conference negotiations to protect SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and other Democratic priorities without killing the farm bill on the House floor and permitting Republicans to blame Democrats for its demise.”

However, the document did not actually come from the House Democratic leaders, says Liz Friedlander, spokesperson for ranking minority member Collin Peterson.  In fact, she had no idea where the document -which was not posted on any type of letterhead - originally came from.

Others speculated that the document might have been generated by the Environmental Working Group, because the points made in the one-pager echoed some of the organizations' farm bill positions and recent attacks on Rep. Fincher. But they, too, denied authorship.

 

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