I blogged yesterday about the possibility that the U.S. House might consider a Farm Bill in which the Food Stamps program (SNAP) was separated out from the agriculture portion of the bill. Now a version of the Farm Bill without SNAP has passed the house by a margin of 216-208, mostly along party lines (here’s NPR’s post on its breaking news blog The Two-Way) I won’t rehash what we’ve said before, but the two programs have long been joined as a bit of a bargain between rural legislators wanting farm assistance, and generally urban legislators wanting food aid for hungry constituents (much more in yesterday’s post, linked above.)
The Senate passed a different version of the bill, and CNN is reporting that the next step would be a joint conference committee where the House and Senate would hammer out the details on the two very different bills.
It’s not clear whether that will happen, though, and the White House has threatened to veto the House version of the bill (the plan is to vote on a separate bill extending SNAP benefits at some later time.)
North Country congressman Bill Owens (D.–Plattsburgh) voted against the bill in the House, and his office has sent the following press release (emphasis in original):
Owens Opposes Split Farm Bill, Repeal of Permanent Law
Split Bill Breaks Decades of Bipartisan Compromise, Provides No Certainty to Farmers Now or in the Future.
WASHINGTON—Today, Congressman Bill Owens voted against H.R. 2642, a modified version of the Farm Bill introduced last night. The bill passed by a vote of 216-208.
“Farmers who were counting on Congress to give them five years of certainty will not find it in this bill now or in the future,” Owens said. “The bill House Leadership brought to the floor today breaks with decades of bipartisan compromise and a longstanding alliance between the farm and nutrition communities that benefits all Americans.”
More than 530 groups representing the farm, conservation, credit, rural development and forestry industries from across the nation urged Speaker of the House John Boehner to keep the 2013 Farm Bill intact. House leadership instead chose to ignore the pleas of those most affected by this critically important legislation and removed the nutrition title from the bill, making it nearly impossible to conference with the Senate on a comprehensive reauthorization of farm and nutrition programs.
H.R. 2642 also contains a provision repealing permanent 1949 farm law, which is normally suspended for the life of a new Farm Bill. This suspension is the policy mechanism that forces both parties to the table to negotiate on the Farm Bill every five years. This provision was not included in the bipartisan bills reported out of either the House or Senate Agriculture Committees. The repeal was added last night and its full ramifications are unknown at this point.
Owens expressed concern about the repeal of the permanent law. “As a practical matter, the threat of reverting to permanent law seems to be the only thing left to force Congress to reauthorize farm programs,” Owens said. “Dividing the Farm Bill into two parts sets a dangerous precedent. This legislation is too important for farmers, New York’s economy, consumers, and the millions of vulnerable seniors, children, and veterans who rely on the SNAP program. They deserve a comprehensive solution, which is long overdue.”
Owens has repeatedly called for both parties to compromise on the Farm Bill and has supported reasonable cuts to the SNAP program while continuing to provide certainty for New York’s agriculture industry.
We’ll have more on this story as it develops. For more on the Farm Bill, food and agriculture, see NCPR’s food and farming blog, The Dirt.