WASHINGTON, June 20, 2013 – The House is expected today to resume consideration of its five-year farm bill (H.R. 1947) and plow through another series of amendments.
This comes after the House began official debate Tuesday and dispensed with several amendments ranging from food stamps, target prices, dairy support, conservation, bees, and several other issues.
Lawmakers are still expecting to vote on final passage today, but there has been some slippage in the schedule that could push it into next week.
Before debate on amendments, the House approved a structured rule on a mostly party-line vote of 239-177. The rule allows for consideration of 103 amendments.
After the rule vote, the House rejected, with a 188-234 vote, an amendment from Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., that would have restored a proposed cut of $20.5 billion to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., said the cuts seeks to balance the deficit “on the backs” of SNAP recipients.
“Half of them are children,” Schrader said. “They can’t get a job.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., argued that providing SNAP benefits is a good way to boost economic growth. She said every dollar put into the program generates $1.70 in economic stimulus.
“Families spend it immediately,” Pelosi said, noting that two earners getting minimum wage qualify for food stamps.
Rep. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, countered Pelosi.
“We can’t food stamp our way to a good economy,” Conaway said. “These are modest reforms.”
Next, in somewhat of a surprise move, Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, withdrew an amendment that sought to replace the bill’s proposed target prices with rolling coverage based on acreage. Gibbs said he would withdraw the amendment based on an assurance from House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., that they would work together on the issue.
The House approved, with a 267-156 vote, an amendment offered by Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., that would cap spending on the Farm Risk Management Election program at 110 percent of Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated levels for the first five years in which payments are disbursed.
Foxx said that if CBO predictions are reasonably accurate, nothing will happen. However, if CBO’s predictions are “completely off-base with reality, this amendment ensures taxpayers won’t be forced to pay for another costly Washington mistake.”
“This will reign in mandatory spending,” Foxx said.
The House rejected, with a 112-309 vote, an amendment from Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga, that sought to repeal dairy support from the Agriculture Act of 1949.
Broun said the program establishes a floor price for milk at two times the amount of the current purchase price and could lead to consumer prices of $7 a gallon.
“This old law rears its ugly head before every farm bill,” Broun said. “The law is outdated and unused.”
House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said repealing the law could jeopardize the entire bill, and questioned why Broun did not seek to repeal the entire law, which also covers commodities such as wheat.
The House rejected, with a 179-242 vote, an amendment from Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., that sought to allow states to target high priority conservation projects through the Conservation Reserve Program.
The House also rejected another Blumenauer amendment, with a 157-266 vote, that sought to provide options to help livestock producers reduce their use of non-therapeutic antibiotics and transition to organic farming practices.
The House approved, with a 273-149 vote, an amendment from Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, that seeks to ensure the long-term viability of the bee population.
Kaptur said beekeepers have lost half of their colonies in the past couple years, and no one knows the cause. She said without proper amounts of pollination from the bees, food production will decrease.
“No bees, no food,” Kaptur said.
The amendment would require the agriculture secretary and the interior secretary to take steps to study and act to bolster the bee population.
The House rejected, with a 203-220 vote, an amendment from Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., that would cut some funding for the Food for Peace program.
Royce said the program takes too long to deliver food to several countries and is too expensive. He said his amendment would provide flexibility to allow food aid money to be spent closer to the countries in need.
In opposition, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said the amendment would “gut” the program by 25 percent, sending the funds to foreign food producers.
Further, the House rejected, with a 98-322 vote, an amendment from Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, that sought to repeal the Market Access Program (MAP).
Chabot argued the program amounts to giving advertising subsidies to large corporations that would be able to pay for the promotions on their own.
Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., called MAP “one of the most indefensible programs.”
“Why should Americans pay for overseas advertising for large companies?” McClintock said, noting he expected the amendment would save $2 billion over 10 years.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and others disagreed.
Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., said, “We are in a growing [foreign] market and our farmers are not always on a level playing field.”
Also, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., withdrew an amendment that would have required a conservation compliance plan be filed with the USDA and followed for all crops in wetlands and all annually tilled crops on highly erodible lands in order to qualify for crop insurance premium subsidy assistance.
In addition, the House approved the following amendments by voice vote late Wednesday:
- An amendment, offered by Chabot, that would shorten the SNAP benefit expunging statute and require a state agency to expunge benefits that have not been accessed by a household after a period of 60 days.
- An amendment, offered by Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., that seeks to ensure USDA certificates of origin are accepted by any country that has entered into a free trade agreement with the United States.
- An amendment, offered by Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y. that would specify that at least one pilot program shall be conducted in a large urban area that administers its own SNAP program.
- An amendment, offered by Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., that would permits states to conduct drug testing on SNAP applicants as a condition for receiving benefits.
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