House Speaker John Boehner confirmed that the House will not take up the “farm bill issue” until after November elections. Current law is set to expire at the end of this month.

The announcement is hardly a surprise with House leadership having repeatedly refused to allow floor time for the farm bill passed out of the House Agriculture Committee in early July. The full Senate passed its farm bill in June.

Shortly after Boehner’s comments, Farm Press spoke with Roger Johnson, president of National Farmers Union (NFU) about the legislation’s status.

Despite House leadership claims to the contrary, Johnson insists there are enough votes to pass a new farm bill. “We just had a fly-in (to D.C. around) two weeks ago. We visited with every member in the House and Senate. Half of those were pre-scheduled with our fly-in participants. Overwhelmingly, they came back and reported that the (lawmakers they met with) wanted the farm bill to go ahead. It’s not that the votes aren’t there.”

In recent days, both Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, have also said the House could pass the farm bill if it was allowed to be voted on.

“For crying out loud, this passed two-to-one in the Senate on a bipartisan basis,” said Johnson. “The House Agriculture Committee passed (its farm bill) three-to-one on a bipartisan basis.

“This isn’t about not having the votes. This, I believe, is about Speaker Boehner not wanting to have the Republican caucus divided and arguing about whether there should even be a farm bill before the election.”

Johnson said the House budget that passed “contained something like $160 billion in cuts to the farm bill. About $130 billion (of that) were out of nutrition. The House Agriculture Committee made about $16 billion in (nutrition program) cuts and the Senate cut just over $4 billion.

“So, there’s a huge difference between what the Ryan budget cut out of the farm bill and what the House Agriculture Committee cut out of the farm bill.”

Johnson also pointed to Tea Party Republicans who have been, “making the case that we don’t need a farm bill or that we need to divide the Nutrition Title away from the rest of the farm bill. Well, if you do that, you’ll kill them both.”

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also met with NFU members during the recent NFU fly-in. Vilsack “makes the argument that this isn’t just about cuts to nutrition. This is about cuts some in the Republican party have in mind for all of agriculture: cutting the commodity programs, crop insurance programs – cutting everything by major amounts. And they know they can’t do that before the elections. So they’re waiting to do it after the elections.

“I think that’s what this is about. And that’s why all of us in agriculture have united to try and put as much political pressure as possible on Congress to take the vote before the election.”

On Sept. 12, attempting to force a House vote on a new farm bill, Iowa Rep. Bruce Braley filed a discharge petition. To be successful, a majority of the House, 218 members, must sign on.

Johnson said the discharge petition “doesn’t have a chance. There are reports that Republican leadership is strong-arming their members telling them not to sign that discharge petition.”

Further, he charged, the filing of the discharge petition at such a late date is more proof of House leadership machinations.

“The House Agriculture Committee passed (its) farm bill in early July. That bill was bottled up and not released to Congress until a week ago. Under the rules, that was the first time that a discharge petition could be filed.

“So, even through folks had said, ‘we’ll do a discharge petition,’ they were prevented from doing so by the procedural tactics that the House leadership took to keep the bill bottled up in committee.”