House Ag Committee Farm Bill Markup Begins Today

July 11, 2012 02:16 AM
Untitled Document

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Key issue is food stamp funding | Dairy policy amendment to be proposed

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

The House Ag Committee will have a harder time getting its farm bill markup task completed versus the Senate Ag panel for a host of reasons, the biggest one being the House panel contains more conservative lawmakers who, unlike the Senate panel, are more cautious about spending issues.

Although several thorny issues have arisen, the key one is the funding level for food stamps (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program/SNAP). Some Republicans want a lot less than the amount already decreased significantly from the Senate farm bill level, whereas some Democrats on the panel want more. The pending House bill looks to axe just over $16 billion from SNAP (up about $12 billion from the Senate’s cuts to the program).

I’m not satisfied with our cuts to SNAP,” said Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), one of the 16 freshmen Republicans sitting on the committee. “It’s not even close to what we did in the Budget Committee.” Huelskamp will offer an amendment that better aligns the House bill with what was offered in the reconciliation process, which included about $33 billion in cuts to SNAP.

But some Democrats will go the other way and seek more food stamp funding. “You can bet your life that we’re going to do everything within our power to defeat this bill,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.). He and other Democrats will push an amendment to maintain SNAP funding and help keep about 2 to 3 million people from losing their benefits.

Other contentious potential amendments include sugar and dairy policy.

Opponents of a proposed dairy supply management program will offer an amendment from Reps. Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.) and David Scott (D-Ga.) that would eliminate language requiring a reduction in milk production when surpluses could drive down prices. Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), who authored the dairy supply management program, said he has the votes to defeat the amendment.

Meanwhile, several commodity groups have not gone public with their dislike of some of the program crop provisions dealing with the Price Loss Coverage/target price language pushed by House Ag Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and Peterson. Several commodity group lobbyists who prefer the Senate farm bill approach said they are concerned that some of the House target prices could distort plantings.

Meanwhile, other issues have surfaced regarding PLC, including (1) discord that payments would not be made until the end of the marketing year and (2) ACRE-program like complexities by having landowners decide which program option is chosen and if a producer has several landlords, if they all do not agree on which program (either the PLC or the Revenue Loss Coverage) program should be selected, the default program is the PLC.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scores the House farm bill savings at $35.1 billion, $12 billion more than a Senate-passed farm bill (S 3240). About 45 percent of the House savings would come from cuts to SNAP. The bill also contains cuts of $14 billion over 10 years to farm programs and cuts of nearly $6 billion to conservation programs. Adding to the Republican pressure, several conservative groups, including Heritage Action for America, Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks and Americans for Tax Reform, sent a letter to Members on Tuesday strongly opposing the bill.

Peterson said Tuesday that he has at least 10 Democrats who confirmed they will vote for the farm bill.

But Assistant Minority Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.) became the highest-ranking Democrat to publicly oppose the bill Tuesday, and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) indicated he is not happy with the food stamp cuts, either. “Mr. Hoyer has strong concerns about the impact of the cuts to food assistance to our nation’s most vulnerable citizens,” spokesman Dan Reilly said.

Comments: Lucas and Peterson need at least 24 votes to get the bill out of the Ag Committee. If they do, it is unclear if and when GOP House leadership will allow the measure to be debated and voted on before Nov. 6 elections. Some observers have already indicated the farm bill process could eventually look a lot like the recent surface transportation bill in that the House never passed a final bill of its own, but still went to conference with the Senate and worked out a “conference” measure. Another option would be to pass a short-term extension of the current farm bill and consider a long-term solution next year. But even getting a short-term extension would not be in the “easy” camp as House conservatives would very likely demand a “down payment” of budget cuts by slicing if not eliminating direct payments.

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






Back to news


Spell Check

No comments have been posted to this News Article

Corn College TV Education Series


Get nearly 8 hours of educational video with Farm Journal's top agronomists. Produced in the field and neatly organized by topic, from spring prep to post-harvest. Order now!


Market Data provided by
Brought to you by Beyer