House passes Farm Bill, but hurdles remain
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a stripped down of the Farm Bill on July 11. Members of Congress voted 216-208 to approve the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013, or H.R. 2642. The House failed to pass a previous version of the bill, H.R. 1947, on June 20, when members of Congress voted down the measure 195 to 234.
"Today was an important step toward enacting a five-year farm bill this year that gives our farmers and ranchers certainty, provides regulatory relief to small businesses across the country, significantly reduces spending, and makes common-sense, market-oriented reforms to agricultural policy. I look forward to continuing conversations with my House colleagues and starting conversations with my Senate colleagues on a path forward that ultimately gets a farm bill to the President's desk in the coming months," said Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.
Rep. Colin Peterson, D-Minn., Ranking Member of the Agriculture Committee, opposed passage of the bill in his floor statement prior to the vote. “I rise in opposition to this bill, for two reasons. First and foremost, I believe the strategy of splitting the farm bill is a mistake that jeopardizes the chances of it ever becoming law. And repealing permanent law all but ensures that we will never write a farm bill again,” he said. Peterson explained that the bill repeals permanent law from 1938 and 1949 and replaces it by making the commodity title in this bill permanent. “If you want to ensure Congress never considers another farm bill and the farm programs as written in this bill remain forever, then vote for this bill,” he said.
During his statement, Peterson stressed that he does not see a clear path forward for the Farm Bill. “There has been no assurance from the Republican Leadership that passing this bill will allow us to begin to conference with the Senate in a timely manner. In fact, the Republican Leadership has told agricultural groups to support this bill as the way to go to conference, while also telling Republican Members, fearful of the wrath of conservative groups' opposition, that there will be no conference, at least not without first getting concessions from the Senate; concessions the Senate will never agree to,” he said.
The U.S. Senate passed its version of the Farm Bill on June 11 by a vote of 66 to 27. To move the legislation forward, the House and Senate versions of the bill will have to go to conference committee.