House rejects 2013 $500 billion Farm Bill
by Rory Doyle
Jun 23, 2013 | 3800 views | 0 0 comments | 101 101 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The U.S. House of Representatives rejected the 2013 farm bill Thursday as conservatives joined with many Democrats to oppose the five-year, $500 billion proposal.

The legislation required a simple majority, or 218 votes, to pass but the vote was 234-195 against.

Many Republicans wanted deeper cuts to the food stamp program, and the traditionally bipartisan bill also suffered from lack of Democratic support.

“I am very disappointed,” said Republican Miss. Rep. Alan Nunnelee in an Associated Press report. “This continues to put us on a fiscal path we cannot sustain.”

Payments to federal entitlement programs will continue but support for agriculture programs, including crop insurance subsidies, would be suspended if legislation is not enacted by the Sept. 30 deadline.

At that time, Congress could approve a one-year extension to the current bill, as was the case last year.

“The agriculture community and our economy need the certainty that comes with a five-year farm bill,” said U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., the ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

“We face a September deadline to provide that certainty, and I am hopeful the House will still be able to come back and pass a bill that can be responsibly conferenced with the farm bill passed by the Senate.”

With a bipartisan 66-27 vote on June 10, the Senate approved a bill that reduces spending by $24 billion, and eliminates more than 100 programs, while reforming and updating others.

Mississippi Farm Bureau President Randy Knight said in a press release that this turn of events was very disappointing.

“Our farmers need a farm bill passed and they need it passed now,” stated Knight. “Without a farm bill, farmers could have trouble getting production loans, equipment loans or any number of other things that go into running a farming operation.

“We certainly appreciate Congressman (Ryan) Nunnelee, Congressman (Gregg) Harper, and Congressman (Steven) Palazzo for working to help pass this bill. Farmers need a safety net through crop insurance to provide protection against catastrophic weather and market changes.

“The Farm Bill gives Mississippi farmers and ranchers the ability to stay in business.”

MSFB Region One manager Justin Ferguson said the talk amongst local farmers is that politics have gotten in the way of solutions.

“The general concern from farmers right now is that the bill didn’t pass because Congress can’t come together,” said Ferguson. “The other problem is that farmers feel this is not really a political issue — and it’s become very politicized.”

Michael Aguzzi, Bolivar County farmer and chair of the MSFB Rice Commission, agreed that the local mood revolves around disappointment and uncertainty.

“The farm bill is a safety net for farmers so they can determine what to put into their budgets,” said Aguzzi. “Basically, it comes down to uncertainty, especially when farmers are trying to plan production costs for the year.

“This is going to cause a trickle-down effect in a lot of ways considering how farming is the number one industry in the Mississippi Delta.”

Determining he Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program budget— otherwise known as food stamps — has lead to major debate about the legislation.

Leaders of the House Republicans have struggled to gain party-wide support on the level of cuts to SNAP. The House version of the bill called for more than $20 billion from the program over the next 10 years, while the Senate version called for just more than $4 billion in cuts.

SNAP accounts for 75 to 80 percent of the budget, which according to some estimates could cost taxpayers as much as $995 billion.

The Food Research and Action Center applauded the House for decisively rejecting the bill, saying in a press release that it would have harmed millions of struggling people in need of food stamp benefits.

“House Members who voted against this bill because of its awful SNAP provisions have shown they care about the hungriest people in America — children, seniors, working families, unemployed workers and individuals with disabilities — who are struggling every day to meet their basic needs and to put food on the table,” said FRAC President Jim Weill. “The House did the right thing, and we applaud them for it.”

Questions loom and farmers anxiously wait to see what’s established before the Sept. 30 deadline.

“It’s a pretty unprecedented moved for a farm bill not to pass,” said Ferguson. ‘There’s a lot of political uncertainty.

“Even a one-year extension will lead to uncertainty. Usually a farm bill is designed for five years. It’s a very frustrating time right now.”