Ag leaders about to lose control of farm bill

Published on: 16:17PM Jun 28, 2013

Pro Farmer Extra

- From the Editors of Pro Farmer newsletter -

June 21, 2013

House ag leaders about to lose control of the farm bill

House GOP leaders want a farm bill passed by the August recess — and with enough votes (218) by Republicans only to send it to a conference committee with the Senate.

Unknown is if GOP leaders will split the bill in two: farm policy and a separate bill on nutrition programs (food stamps/SNAP). Surprisingly, this approach is gaining momentum. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) supports carving the nutrition title out of the farm bill; House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Ok.) does not support splitting the bill and is concerned if this approach is taken, neither bill would pass the House.

And there is uncertainty about what would happen in the conference committee with the Senate on the legislation. It would be a three-way topic meld: The Senate farm bill (that includes farm programs and nutrition) attempting to meld with the House's farm program bill and a separate nutrition bill. That sounds messy.

Whatever happens to the House farm bill on that chamber’s floor, the final results (a bill or a very modified farm bill extension) will be worked out among congressional leaders — Sens. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Reps. Boehner and Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Because the leaders of both chambers are taking over the bill, the Senate and House ag leadership won't have much of a say in how the final bill looks, performs and is funded.

If House leaders go with a split approach in coming debates, they'll debate the farm program bill first, and the nutrition program second. If both bills pass the House and an agreement can’t be reached in conference, look for some high-stakes politics. An effort would be made to modify permanent legislation when it comes to dairy in a must-pass, end-of-year bill. If a farm bill conference cannot be reached, then an extension of current policy and a phaseout of direct payments are likely.


Follow Pro Farmer Editor Chip Flory on Twitter: @ChipFlory

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