As the House of Representatives takes up full debate on the farm bill, crop insurance and the commodity programs were largely protected by the rules committee.
According to Pro Farmer policy analyst Jim Wiesemeyer, the allowed House farm bill amendments are mostly a victory for Rep. Mike Conaway and farm groups.
“House GOP leaders gave House Ag Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas) what he urged, just a few amendments negatively impacting crop insurance, as well as no effort on tightening farm program payment limits,” he said. “A debate rule cleared by the House Rules Committee Wednesday evening allows for just two amendments that would attack commodity programs or crop insurance. One would reform the sugar program. The other amendment is a poison-pill proposal by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) to phase out all subsidies for commodity programs and crop insurance that stands little to no chance of being approved.”
In Tuesday’s episode of AgriTalk, Conaway had strong words to say about the backers behind the sugar amendment.
“We've got multinational corporations, the big sugar users, out there who are pitching this as somehow they're the good guys in this and our farmers are the bad guys,” he said. “This is the absolute David and Goliath fight, and Goliath looks like it's trying to win this thing and so you got sugar users who are promoting the use of sugar harvested in Africa by slave labor child labor, those kinds of things. That's just really weird.”
Conaway said anytime one crop is singled out, the industry has to stand up together and fight.
“We've got to stick together as a family, Chip,” he said. “The reason farm policy has worked so well over all these years is that the production side had their fistfights among the family members, but once we got to this point, they were shoulder to shoulder to try to get this done. So if we cut off one of the one of our commodities and single them out like is being done with this one, then that does not bode well for the rest of the program moving forward.”
Still Searching For Votes
House Speaker Paul Ryan has a target of Friday in sight for a full floor vote on the bill.
According to Wiesemeyer, House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said late Wednesday that Conaway was still short of votes.
“There are not enough votes for the farm bill right now,” Meadows said after meeting with leadership. “Hopefully they will be there by Friday.”
Still, Conaway thinks he will find the votes.
"We're still working with people trying to get them to a 'yes.' We're still working the list," Conaway said. "Right now it looks good. You never know until you start putting out the red and green lights on something this razor-thin, but we're moving in the right direction."