After offered amendments and heated debates on dairy and nutrition programs, the House Agriculture Committee passed a new, $940 billion farm bill 36-10 on a largely partisan vote.

Read the bill here.

Democrats, deeply unhappy with some $20 billion in cuts to food stamps (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) proposed by Republicans, weren’t persuaded after nine hours of back-and-forth – including frequent quoting of Bible verses and theologically-based arguments from both sides – to vote for the bill. The scrum also included Democrats railing against the nutrition program cuts while funding for recent wars and foreign nation-building has reached into the trillions of dollars.

A typical exchange came after Republican Rep. Fincher of Tennessee quoted his grandfather: “’Son, be careful when you have the conversation about giving people their way out of poverty. Because no matter how much you give them, until they realize they have to do it on their own, it’s a very slippery slope.’ … Again, we go back to the role of government. We have to be very careful.”

After relaying a story about his daughter, a kindergarten teacher, finding a student stuffing his pockets with squash grown in the school’s garden to feed a sibling, California Democrat John Garamendi pointed out 25 percent of American children are inadequately nourished. “What are we doing?  We can talk all we want about responsibility all we want – whether it’s a government responsibility, a community responsibility, a church or an individual. Well, by God, it’s our responsibility. (Lawmakers) are responsible for every single American, in one way or another. And we’re responsible for those that are hungry.”

The House farm bill reforms “rein in the cost of the program by enforcing the asset and income tests, ending recruitment activities that increase enrollment, and preventing states from circumventing the law to receive greater federal funding,” said Oklahoma Rep. Frank Lucas, House Agriculture Committee chairman.

Meanwhile, with the exception of a 70-plus minute debate on dairy policy, the commodity and conservation titles emerged from the mark-up without much scrutiny, although both will undoubtedly face questions once the bill hits the House floor this summer.  

The House farm bill calls for some $40 billion in spending cuts over the next decade. As already mentioned, half that total comes from nutrition programs with the balance coming from cuts to other titles. As in the Senate farm bill, the House would eliminate direct payments, with savings of about $5 billion annually that will be used to fund expanded crop insurance programs along with target prices for rice and peanuts.

The House farm bill also provides for livestock producer insurance, added money to specialty crop programs, and left the sugar program – including restrictions on imports -- largely intact.