"Rural America deserved much better from the House than what they got yesterday," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told AgriTalk host Mike Adams on Friday. " 530 groups representing the voice of rural America wrote the need for a comprehensive food, farm, and jobs bill. Those voices were totally disregarded yesterday."
The 216-208 House roll call barely passed the bill that separated the nutrition title, making it a farm-only policy. But the bill still has a long way to go as it will now enter Conference Committee where members of the House and Senate will try to find a bipartisan compromise. However, it is already expected that the White House will veto the new version.
Adams was also joined by Senator Jerry Moran (R-Ken.) and Farm Bureau’s Mary Kay Thatcher live from the DuPont Pioneer headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa. They discussed the outcome of the July 11th House vote and what the outcome means for farmers.
"I applaud what the House did," Adams said. "They passed a farm bill. The Senate passed a nutrition bill that had 20% agriculture in it."
"Now, for those concerned about nutrition programs, I think the nutrition programs will wind up in the farm bill in Conference Committee. And for those concerned about the cuts, there will probably be fewer cuts in nutrition spending," the AgriTalk host added. "For those concerned about nutrition spending, this is probably a good move."
Moran predicted that getting the bill to Conference won’t make it any easier to pass. He said that the increasing absence of congressmen involved in agriculture may be at the root of these issues. "There was a reason [the farm bill and nutrition title] were combined. The theory a long time ago was food stamp and nutrition programs will keep people in urban and suburban areas of the country interested in the farm bill. In this absence, and from what we saw yesterday, that’s hard to put together."
Thatcher witnessed the tension in the House yesterday. "It was pretty ugly," she said. "It was very much a partisan fight yesterday. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it uglier on the House floor."
Vilsack said that he is going to stay heavily involved with the Conference Committee and its appointment of conferees. He stressed the need for a speedy, efficient group from the Senate and House. "Everything is on the table and reasonable people can work out differences. If they don’t, I think we have some very serious days ahead."
Despite the congressional drama, Vilsack said that USDA will be able to handle the uncertainty that may come out of the Committee. "We’ll be able to get our job done. We’re just waiting for Congress to get their job done."
To hear Mike Adam’s full AgriTalk report from Friday, July 12, click on the clip below.