House to vote on half a farm bill Thursday

REUTERS/Adrees Latif
The agriculture bill set to see House action Thursday is reportedly similar to the largely uncontroversial ag title in the original House bill, which would end direct subsidies to farmers and expand crop insurance programs.
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Rep. Tim Walz

“I would hope that 218 would be the key to doing a lot of things,” House Agriculture committee chairman Frank Lucas told a scrum of reporters. He laughed off a reporter questioning whether a tweet from his committee staff (Reading, “Lucas on #farmbill split idea: ‘if there aren’t 218 votes, if there’s no assurance of success, why try effort?’ ”) was a prediction of the bill’s doom in the House.

500 farm groups opposed

Republicans are trying to move the farm bill in two parts after a combined bill failed on the House floor in June. Sixty-two Republicans voted against the bill after calling for deeper cuts to the food stamps program; 172 Democrats voted against it arguing the cuts were too deep already.

The agriculture bill set to see House action Thursday is reportedly similar to the largely uncontroversial ag title in the original House bill, which would end direct subsidies to farmers and expand crop insurance programs, though it contains amendments added to the bill on the House floor. It would also repeal the 64-year-old “permanent law,” which is usually the impetus for passing farm bill overhauls every five years — currently, without a new bill in place, federal agriculture policy reverts to a law passed in 1948.

But agriculture groups and Democrats are united against the split. More than 500 ag groups sent House Speaker John Boehner a letter last week asking him not to decouple agriculture and food stamps and Peterson has called the move everything from “a dumb idea” to “stupid” to “lunacy.” In a statement Wednesday night, Peterson said: “I still believe splitting the farm bill is a mistake in the long run. They are ignoring the advice of most of the groups affected by the bill and I see no clear path to getting a bill passed by the House and Senate and signed by the President.”

The two other Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee, Walz and Rep. Rick Nolan, had said they’re inclined to oppose the bill on Thursday as well.

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MinnPost/File/Paul Walsh
Rep. Rick Nolan

Even if the House passes the bill, it’s unlikely to become law: In the Democratic-controlled Senate, Agriculture Committee chairwoman Debbie Stabenow told the AP the split was a “major mistake,” and the White House is opposed. Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer called it a “dead-on-arrival messaging bill.”

Devin Henry can be reached at dhenry@minnpost.com. Follow him on Twitter: @dhenry

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