Proposition of Farm Bill Split Has Long Road Ahead

Opposition to splitting the farm bill appears in full force from ag groups and government interests

Published on: Jul 11, 2013

Updated  7/11/2013 7: 30 a.m. CDT

The common notion that it's impossible to please everyone all the time is never as true as this week while House lawmakers attempt to sort out a farm bill compromise to keep the legislation afloat.

Almost immediately after the House voted the House Ag Committee-passed bill down in June, speculation swirled about what would be next. Another attempt at passing the bill? Fewer amendments to food stamp programs? Splitting the bill into two – one for farms, one for food assistance?

Well, it seems some Reps have chosen the route of the third option, and are canvassing House members to get a feel for how votes might shake out. But not everyone is happy – some say splitting the bill will eliminate the balance between farm programs and food programs, while others say the bills together allowed for bipartisan bargaining.

Opposition to splitting the farm bill appears in full force from ag groups and government interests
Opposition to splitting the farm bill appears in full force from ag groups and government interests

"A mechanism must remain in place to ensure that Congress checks back periodically to see that agriculture and food systems are operating as they ought to, in order to serve the American people," suggested National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson. "Maintaining the existing permanent law provision provides an incentive for Congress to be engaged in agricultural policy."

As NFU and other farm groups continue to stand by their position that the Farm Bill should contain both food and farm provisions, the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, supports splitting the bill. But just having farm and food provisions isn't enough, they said.

The group's biggest complaint is that if the House votes on the agriculture sections of the previously rejected House farm bill as one bill, no amendments would be allowed per a decision by the House Rules Committee meeting late Wednesday.

"The House is missing the whole point of separation: By separating food stamps and farm programs, each can be considered on its own merits in two distinct bills, making real reform a possibility. The House, though, would ignore the need for reform if it just repackaged the agriculture sections of the failed farm bill," the group contends.

Meanwhile, Governors from North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota highlighted the shrinking timeline for action; House lawmakers have just a few weeks to consider the hot topic of immigration, and deal with the farm bill, before they leave for summer recess in August. Upon their return, the Sept. 30 deadline to reauthorize farm programs or revert to old policy closes in.

"The farm bill is too important for the nation, agriculture and conservation to allow it to be run off track by Washington politics," Governors Dalrymple (N.D.), Daugaard (S.D.) and Dayton (Minn.) said in a letter to House leaders.

"There is no time for further delays because the nation’s farmers and ranchers need these policies finalized in order to make sound business decisions and to bring stability to the entire agriculture industry," the Governors noted.

For more on the Rules Committee meeting and new bill text, check out Jacqui Fatka's blog, DC Dialogue.

Read more on the House Farm Bill
House Dems Introduce Senate Farm Bill
Ag Interests React To House Defeat of Farm Bill
House Rejects Farm Bill 195-234
House Works To Hammer Farm Bill Home