Farm bill passes House

After years of disagreement, legislation heads to Senate.
Associated Press
Jan 29, 2014

After years of setbacks, an almost $100 billion-a-year compromise farm bill cleared the House on Wednesday despite strong opposition from conservatives who sought a bigger cut in food stamps.

The five-year bill, which preserves generous crop subsidies, heads to the Senate, where approval seems certain. The White House said President Barack Obama would sign it.

The measure, which the House approved 251-166, had backing from the Republican leadership team, even though it makes smaller cuts to food stamps than they would have liked. After wavering for several years, the GOP leaders were seeking to put the long-stalled bill behind them and build on the success of a bipartisan budget passed earlier this month. Leaders in both parties also were hoping to bolster rural candidates in this year's midterm elections.

House Speaker John Boehner did not cast a vote on the bill, a commonplace practice for a speaker, but he had issued a statement Monday saying it was "worthy of the House's support." Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., voted for the bill despite concerns from some in her caucus that the bill cut too much from the food stamp program.

The bill ultimately would cut about $800 million a year from the $80 billion-a-year food stamp program, or around 1 percent. The House had sought a 5 percent cut.

The legislation also would continue to heavily subsidize major crops for the nation's farmers while eliminating some subsidies and shifting them toward more politically defensible insurance programs.

House Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., called the compromise a "miracle" after trying to get the bill passed for almost three years. An early version of the legislation was defeated on the House floor last June after conservatives said the food stamp cuts were too modest and liberal Democrats said they were too deep.

The House later passed a bill with a higher, $4 billion cut, arguing at the time that the program had spiraled out of control after costs doubled in the last five years. But cuts that high were ultimately not possible after the Senate balked and the White House threatened a veto. The Senate had sought a cut of $400 million annually.

Many House conservatives still voted against the bill — 63 Republicans opposed it, one more than in June.

One of those conservative opponents was Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind. "It spends money we simply don't have," he said.

But 89 Democrats supported it, bolstered by the lower cut in food stamps. The top Democrat on the agriculture panel, Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, said he also enticed some of his colleagues with more money for fruit, vegetable and organic programs.

The final savings in the food stamp program would come from cracking down on some states that seek to boost individual food stamp benefits by giving people small amounts of federal heating assistance that they don't need. That heating assistance, sometimes as low as $1 per person, triggers higher benefits, and some critics see that practice as circumventing the law. The compromise bill would require states to give individual recipients at least $20 in heating assistance before a higher food stamp benefit could kick in.

Some Democrats said the food stamp cut still is too high.

Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, one of the states that have boosted benefits through heating assistance, said the cut will be harmful on top of automatic food stamp cuts that went into place in November.

"I don't know where they are going to make that up," McGovern said.

To pass the bill, Lucas and his Senate counterpart, Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, found ways to bring many potential naysayers on board. They spent more than two years crafting the bill to appeal to members from all regions of the country. They included a boost in money for crop insurance popular in the Midwest; higher rice and peanut subsidies for Southern farmers; and renewal of federal land payments for Western states.

They also backed away from repealing a catfish program — a move that would have angered Mississippi lawmakers — and dropped House language that would have thwarted a California law requiring all eggs sold in the state to come from hens living in larger cages. Striking out that provision was a priority for California lawmakers who did not want to see the state law changed.

For those seeking reform of farm programs, the legislation would eliminate a $4.5 billion-a-year farm subsidy called direct payments, which are paid to farmers whether they farm or not. But the bill nonetheless would continue to heavily subsidize major crops — corn, soybeans, wheat, rice and cotton — while shifting many of those subsidies toward more politically defensible insurance programs. That means farmers would have to incur losses before they could get a payout.

The almost $100 billion-a-year bill would save around $1.65 billion annually overall, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The amount was less than the $2.3 billion annual savings the agriculture committees originally projected for the bill.

An aide to Lucas said the difference was due to how the CBO calculated budget savings from recent automatic across-the-board spending cuts, known as sequestration.

 

Comments

phroggy

So the farmers will continue to their Florida homes every winter after all.

coasterfan

Yep, that's the Republican way. We must give tax subsidies to people and corporations who don't need it, while cutting funding to people who truly ARE in need, all the while telling everyone that it is Republicans who care about the middle class and poor. What a complete load of baloney...

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

I will happily meet you half way. This is a load for sure, but one that Democrats also helped craft and pass. The government shouldn't pick winners and losers through subsidies. That aside, when you look at it there isn't even a 2% savings here and most of that comes from something that should be done anyway (fraud/"loophole" abuse where it seems one government program is scamming the other making us all lose).

coasterfan

Excellent comment. If, as Republicans say, the free market should be allowed to pick winners and losers, why do Republicans insist on giving handouts to millionaire farmers, and billion-dollar oil companies? As usual, Republicans want to redistribute money UPWARDS, then cry "class warfare" when Democrats point out that their policies are feeding the growing inequities between the rich and poor. The only way Dems could get this bill passed was to acquiesce to GOP demands to cut food stamps for children, elderly and disabled.

By not allowing needed cuts in handouts to the rich, fighting against increased taxes for the rich, and instead pushing for cuts to the poor, the only way this bill can be funded is by the middle class. Class money grab in favor of the rich.

I would hope by now, that everyone finally understands that the GOP is what they have always been: a party that tramples on the poor and middle class.

deertracker

Great comments from both of you!

JudgeMeNot

89 Democrats supported cutting food stamps.

KnuckleDragger

Those subsidies you rail about are what ensures you continue to have affordable food available. Without them you would pay $7 for a gallon of milk, $4 for a head of lettuce, and $8/lb for hamburger. Nonetheless, go ahead and do away with the subsidies. When they do you will be on here complaining that the republicans are the reason for spiking food prices. Living out here in farm country, I don't know a single farmer who is a millionaire, they are middle class. I noticed your best buddy Pelosi voted for the farm bill, why wouldn't she? She owns several vineyards, which makes her, you guessed it, a FARMER!!! Now there is a millionaire farmer, and she makes sure she votes yes on every piece of legislation that will put money in HER pockets.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

I understand your point about prices rising but it would be temporary as society corrects around it as it always has, does, and will. The subsidies need to wind down and end. No preferences to oil, ethanol, solar, etc. We need to see what things actually cost.

And besides, if milk cost as much as you say, I wouldn't buy as much cheap Chinese plastic frivolities and instead focus on my survival as it employs untold others who work to indirectly sustain me through voluntary interactions.

KnuckleDragger

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JudgeMeNot

89 Democrats supported cutting food stamps.

Darwin's choice

Yes, you are a complete load of balogna. Democrats have been loading pork into this bill for years, angry catfish growers? Really?

Donegan

Guess you did not realize it was Bi-partisan passed. Even your sweet hearts Marcy Kaptur and Nancy "I am as brainless as my cheerleaders" Pelosi voted for it. Quit blaming others, Grow a brain and do a little research.
http://politics.nytimes.com/cong...

KnuckleDragger

Pelosi is a farmer, so certainly she would look out for her own interests.

mikesee

By the number of votes received on both sides of the isle it is not just a Republican issue. It is crazy that the gov't continues to subsidize the farmer the way they do.

JudgeMeNot

89 Democrats supported cutting food stamps.

coasterfan

The law passed because it's an election year. The thought of getting primaried by teaparty wingnuts within their own party finally provided motivation for Republicans to work towards compromise. Gotta chuckle, watching the mental gymnastics some GOP candidates go through, as they attempt to ignore that 60-70% of Americans favor Obama-proposed legislation, such as raising the minimum wage. They are pulled 3 ways, between the ultra-right activists, the deep-pocketed interests who buy their vote, and what most Americans actually want.

KnuckleDragger

You must be extremely troubled by the fact that the projections by most major media outlets is that the dems are likely to lose the Senate and the House is likely to remain controlled by republicans. Obama is so unpopular right now due to the Obamacare debacle that members of his own party are trying to distance themselves from him. It isn't gonna work, because unfortunately there is just too much video out there of dems singing the praises of Obamacare. By By dems.

Trigger from Erie

Here's a few facts and a little political reality for you, Coasterfan:

Every other year is an election year in the House. The Farm Bill supporters have been trying to get a Farm Bill agreement for 3 years now. The timing has a lot more to do with when an agreement was reached than the calendar. Oh, and comprehensive bills like the Farm Bill are much LESS likely to pass during an election year.

Republicans who voted for the Farm Bill are MORE likely to face a primary from a tea party candidate than those who voted against it. Tea party candidates loathe bipartisan compromise. Sometimes I wonder what planet you live on.

Take a look at the top five deep pocketed interests in any election cycle and see you will see unions, not agricultural groups, at the top of the list.

The bill is about 75% food stamp spending. And *gasp* a majority of Republicans voted for it. You can put away that old canard about Republicans not caring about poor people now, thank you.

JudgeMeNot

89 Democrats supported cutting food stamps.

The Big Dog's back

162 Repubs supported cutting food stamps.

The Big Dog's back

The other 63 Repubs voted against because it wasn't a BIG ENOUGH CUT.

Donegan

The voice of the people in Washington is congress. You want the president to ignore 100% of the peoples voice claiming it is the peoples will. It is funny to watch your mental gymnastics trying to defend a dictator while claiming it is the voice of the people being heard. The people (At least those with brains) enjoy a split government to avoid dictators while ideologe's are in office.

kURTje

Some clearly never farmed. Thank Earl Butz for crowding out the farmer (small guy), and making Agri-business ($$/PAC groups) go fwd in a big way. As for quality of food in America it is greatly diminished. Low cost/low quality. Another reason we try to make most of our own food.

Kaisom33

Do any of you realize what it costs to farm? To have just 500 acres, and barely clear $25,000 a year, that's your income, that you then have to reinvest in the seed, at around $200 a bag, our seed bill was $14,500 for this coming year. Not to mention equipment, repairs, fertilizer. That farm bill ensures us that if the weather is bad, and our crops do not grow, we get a PORTION of what we invested back. Usually, you take a loss even with the aid if its too wet, too dry or we had bad wind storms knock down the corn. So easy to judge when you have no clue how you get your food.

kURTje

Well 33 you forgot all the writes offs. Not to mention I stated we grow most of our food presently. Still heat 100% with wood & have our own H2O. Ralph Walcher knew us also & did business with us. Were you born into land like Burnham's Orchard? ewg.org Got it tough sell some frontage........geez.

Kaisom33

Sometimes reality cleans the mudd off your glasses. Farming isn't a cake walk. We also grow most of our own food and heat with wood. We work for what we have, no family bequeaths. Who wins the prize?

Darwin's choice

Do you pay a mortgage?

Kaisom33

Yes we do pay a mortgage. We also have a family member who raises cattle, thats our meat, we raise chickens for meat and eggs. We are not million dollar farmers, we are a small farm, happy with what we do, grateful to have help when the weather kicks us in the butt, so we don't lose everyhting.

kURTje

Keep this thread going. Truth is it hard for the vast majority of Americans. Most had to work to obtain what little they have. Why should your lot be any different? I curse the PAC groups. imo they have hurt the average person.

Dr. Information

Oh no 1% cut in foodstamps…………lets cry.