Speaker Boehner (R-Ohio) announced to the Republican Conference that he would vote for the farm bill (H.R. 1947) even though he has serious reservations about the dairy provisions. He said the rule governing the floor debate on the Committee’s bill would allow amendments to be offered to every title including the commodity and nutrition programs.
“I'm going to vote for the farm bill to make sure that the good work of the Agriculture Committee and whatever that the floor might do to improve this bill gets to a conference so that we can get the kind of changes that people want in our nutrition programs and our farm programs,” Boehner said.
Rep. McCarthy (R-Calif.), the third ranking House Republican, is leading the so-called Whip team and has indicated along with Committee Chairman Lucas (R-Okla.) that amendments will have to be filed by the afternoon of Monday, June 17, in order to be considered by the Rules Committee, which will meet the next day.
The Rules Committee establishes the rule under which the full House debates legislation. It is likely that the Rules Committee will allow most of the amendments filed by June 17 to be offered if the sponsor asks to bring the amendment up. The Committee may cull a few of the amendments that are duplicative or are filed just to make a statement. It is expected that several hundred amendments may be filed, including ones to modify the dairy program, eliminate the sugar program, impose limits on crop insurance and make further cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
During a Ways and Means Committee hearing on US-Brazil trade, Rep. Kind (D-Wisc.) announced his intention to offer an amendment to the farm bill to further modify the cotton program to resolve the Brazil WTO dispute and to prohibit USDA from making future payments to the Brazil Cotton Institute as required under the US-Brazil Framework Agreement. (See Framework Agreement explanation on the NCC’s website at www.cotton.org/issues/2013/brazframe.cfm).
Participants at a briefing hosted by the American Enterprise Institute said House Members will file amendments to modify the crop insurance title of the House Agriculture Committee’s version of the farm bill.
Scott Faber, vice president of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group, said he expects amendments to include a requirement for conservation compliance to be eligible to purchase crop insurance, an adjusted gross income test that makes individuals with an adjusted gross income (AGI) that exceeds $250,000 from receiving premium subsidies, reform to the Price Loss Coverage program, a requirement that USDA release information on the premium subsidies made available to individuals, a proposal to lower the AGI level used to determine program eligibility and amendments to reinstate limitations on marketing loan gains.
Vince Smith, a Montana State U. agricultural economist, said there is no social justification for crop insurance subsidies. He said the subsidies encourage high risk behavior in farming, place incentives to remove land from the Conservation Reserve Program and use taxpayer money to fund administrative costs for private insurance companies.
The Heritage Foundation and other conservative think tanks have published strong criticisms of the House bill in an effort to convince conservative Republicans to oppose it.
A huge coalition of agriculture and agribusiness organizations, including the NCC, sent a letter to each US Representative applauding the House Committee on Agriculture for expeditiously moving forward on a five-year farm bill but cautioning that failure to pass such a bill before September's end would mean continued uncertainty for farmers, ranchers and their rural communities.
The letter stated that the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act of 2013 (H.R. 1947) achieves spending cuts that reduce the federal budget deficit, saving taxpayers $40 billion, including $6 billion through sequestration. It also repeals or consolidates more than 100 programs administered by USDA, including direct payments to crop producers. Without passage of FARRM, no budget savings will be achieved beyond sequestration.
The letter, which also noted the farm bill promotes an economically healthy US agriculture sector, said the bill’s policies serve a variety of purposes including: meeting the food, fuel and fiber needs of consumers worldwide; providing a farm and natural resource safety net; improving our balance of trade through trade promotion programs; promoting rural development; and creating needed jobs here at home.
“We stand united in our strong support for a new five-year bill and commend the House Committee on Agriculture for advancing a bill for timely action by the full House,” the coalition stated. “Failure to pass a five-year farm bill before the end of September would mean continued uncertainty for farmers, ranchers and their rural communities; it would also mean that American taxpayer would see none of the budget savings achieved.”
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