Farm Bill Update: July 25, 2013

July 25, 2013 03:06 AM

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Slow timeline for House nutrition bill | Lucas signals another extension of 2008 Farm Bill, but hasn't given up yet | Vilsack comments on SNAP | Lucas comments on permanent ag law development

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.

The following is an update on several new farm bill developments in what can only be described as a continuing saga to get the measure approved.

Slow timeline for potential House nutrition title bill; Lucas signals odds rising for farm bill extension, but still hopes for a consensus bill on nutrition. Getting negative in Washington isn't just talking about the Washington Nationals baseball team, but it typically has to do with the inability of Congress to reach agreement on all sorts of topics. In this case it is a nutrition bill needed to move along the farm bill process. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) met with some other Republicans yesterday to discuss a bill that will now be considered in September if an agreement on its particulars can be forged. House Ag Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) is already turning pessimistic, saying an extension of the 2008 Farm Bill would be necessary if the House does not pass a nutrition bill and get an official farm bill conference underway in September, a month which has only nine legislative days. Lucas said that he is anticipating a possible extension of the current farm bill, though it is unclear how that might fare in the House. "I think that’s a very high probability," Lucas said of an extension. "It’s my least favorite option. That would be where we are headed."

But attempts at compromise are still underway. Lucas said in an interview on Wednesday that he and the majority leader’s office "are attempting to poll, to have discussions with various members, both Republicans and Democrats, to try and come up with what would be a consensus bill, how can you address the social nutrition title, the food stamp title, in effect, SNAP, in a way that 218, a majority of my colleagues, will vote for. Right now that equation is not there, and discussions are still going on. My friends on the left don’t want to have any reforms and my friends on the right want dramatically more reforms than probably are achievable in this environment. But that said, my personal goal is by some point next week, if it’s quite clear that consensus cannot be achieved, if it’s just not achievable, then I think we need to recognize that fact and move on conferencing the bill that the Senate’s passed and the House has passed and see what evolves from that. But right now still trying to achieve consensus. That consensus is at the very least elusive. It might even be impossible. But I’m still trying. And with a statement of fact one way or the other, either we move with the bill or we don’t move with the nutrition bill, then we need to begin the process of getting ready for a full conference." The House leaves for August recess next week.

Rep. Steve Southerland (R- Fla.), one of the nutrition meeting participants, said Cantor would attempt to bring up a food stamp/SNAP bill during September. A specific food stamp savings number is not the goal. Instead, GOP leaders are focusing on which policy changes they prefer and seeing the budget savings resulting from any such changes to the nutrition program. Southerland said no one wanted to ignore the nutrition title. "It was never our desire to pass farm bill legislation and not address SNAP. We’re having these meetings, we’re meeting again today, to get the job done, to address both farm policy as well as nutrition," Southerland said during a briefing by conservative GOP House members. Congress has time to conclude the two-step farm bill process because even though the current farm bill extension expires Sept. 30, any impacts would not be felt until late December. SNAP, is permanent under separate legislation and could be funded via the appropriations process, and thus could continue without a farm bill. The federally subsidized crop insurance program also would continue without a farm bill or extension.


Vilsack talks about SNAP and House efforts to modify. One approach discussed in a GOP House meeting Wednesday was a proposal by Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) that would allow — but not require — individual states to test work requirements" for food stamp eligibility. The Associated Press reported that USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said Wednesday that in looking at deeper work requirements, Republicans are ignoring who actually gets food stamps. He said 92 percent of recipients are children, the elderly, disabled or people who are already working. Vilsack called the Southerland amendment "arbitrary" and said it would make more sense to improve state employment and training programs that help food stamp recipients find and keep jobs.


Lucas defends House push for new permanent ag law. The House farm bill repeals the 1938 Act and 1949 Act as permanent legislation and replaces it with whatever can be passed in the new Title I language. Ron Hays, of the Oklahoma Farm Report and Radio Oklahoma Network, spoke yesterday with Lucas. He asked Lucas about permanent law. Lucas said, "The old logic was if you had a ‘38 and a ’49 law on the books that were so horrendous, so impossible to implement, that will force action. I would tell you in the new environment, my friends on the left and my friends on the right don’t care. They just don’t care. The White House doesn’t understand rural America, doesn’t understand production agriculture. That creates a situation where, in future years, if it’s like now, and we get to this point we’re at now, somebody will simply include language in a CR (Continuing Resolution) to finish the appropriations year or some other legislation will just simply repeal it all and we’ll have nothing. I’m trying to craft good policy in a way that we can live with it, not just for the next five years, but the next ten or 15 years. I want to use that as permanent law to protect us from a day when we can’t pass any farm legislation. At that point it becomes a defensive battle, protecting what we have, not trying to scare people by using the bad old policy from Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman’s time to force something to happen. Because the group I’m now part of will just simply repeal a ’38 and ’49 law before it—when it takes effect and we’ll have nothing. That’s what I’m afraid of."


NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.






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