Farm Bill fails House
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A pretty stunning development in Washington today, as the House of Representatives rejected its version of the Farm Bill, 234-195. 62 Republicans voted against the bill, many because they didn't like its nearly $100 billion a year price tag and thought cuts should be deeper. Many Democrats voted against it because it cuts $2 billion a year from the food stamp program.
Fox News calls the rejection a blow to House leadership:
The defeat was not expected. House Speaker John Boehner, who rarely votes, supported the bill. Members stood in silence as they watched the scoreboard Thursday afternoon.
Reaction is starting to come in. Here's the statement from the New York Farm Bureau, which had supported passage:
The farmers in this state deserve a reasonable farm policy that has been delayed for far too long. While there were concerns over certain provisions of the bill, we were hoping its passage and a vigorous debate in conference would reach an appropriate compromise that would provide a fair safety net for the people who produce healthy, local food and the consumers who need help putting it on their dinner tables.
New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has been fierce in this debate in her defense of the food stamps program. Today in a statement, she applauded House Democrats who voted down the farm bill for its cuts to food stamps:
Just as important as the health of our agriculture industry, is the health and nutrition of our children and families. I am proud to see House Democrats stand strong and reject this draconian cut that would literally take food away from millions of those who desperately need it – from veterans and military families, to seniors living on fixed incomes, hungry children and struggling families who rely on SNAP to make ends meet.
Congressman Bill Owens voted in favor of the bill, as he said he would last week. In a statement, Owens says the bill wasn't perfect, but it would have provided economic and policy certainty for New York's farmers:
Failure of the Farm Bill today is yet another stumbling block delaying critical help for farmers across the state. There has been good, bipartisan work to complete a Farm Bill in the past, and I call upon my colleagues to continue working in that spirit. It is my hope that future versions of the Farm Bill include stronger protections for dairy farmers and less dramatic reductions in the SNAP programs that protect seniors, veterans and children in my district, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to see this done.
Good analysis from NPR's Dan Charles on how farmers and lawmakers from farm states – the ones on the House Agriculture committee – are losing control of U.S. farm policy:
Ed Royce, R-Calif., a senior Republican who tried unsuccessfully to reform the food aid parts of the bill, voted against it today. So did budget hawk Paul Ryan, R-Wisc. The conservative , which wanted deeper cuts in both food stamps and farm subsidies, called the bill's defeat "a victory for the taxpayer and the free market."
The bill's supporters might not have anticipated that reaction. "Lawmakers on the [Agriculture] Committee really underestimated the extent to which others were offended" by the bill, says Scott Faber of the , one of the leading critics of agricultural subsidies. Lobbyists for farm interests "increasingly seem to have a political tin ear," Faber says.
This all reminds me of that ominous warning from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at the beginning of the year – that " rural America is becoming less relevant." Sound a bit prophetic today.
Tags: agriculture, dairy, economy, farm bill, food stamps, nutrition, politics, washington