As DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton noted earlier this week, “The farm bill advanced Monday from being another skirmish in the presidential race to ground zero of the political battle.”
Although the full Senate and the House Agriculture Committee have each passed a version of the five-year legislation, House GOP Leaders have not brought the measure to the full chamber for a vote. Speaker John Boehner noted before the August recess that he hadn’t “seen 218 votes in the middle to pass a farm bill” (related audio- (MP3- 1:02)).
Two views are emerging this week on why Congress has failed to pass the 2012 Farm Bill, which expires in September.
Jens Manuel Krogstad reported today at The Des Moines Register Online that, “But [Sec. of Agriculture Tom Vilsack], the former Iowa governor campaigning on behalf of President Barack Obama, also blamed congressional Republicans for letting expire a federal disaster program that would have helped drought-stricken farmers this summer.
“Vilsack saved his most pointed criticism for Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., saying that Ryan would slash money for crop insurance, conservation and nutrition. Ryan’s selection as the Republican vice presidential candidate has the potential to hurt the federal farm bill being debated in Congress, Vilsack said.”
A similar theme was expressed in the following video, which aired yesterday on MSNBC-TV, and featured remarks from Rep. Joe Donnelly (D., Ind.), who is currently running for the U.S. Senate in Indiana.
On the other hand, The Wall Street Journal editorial board offered a different perspective in today’s paper.
The Journal pointed out that, “President Obama is in Iowa this week to play farm politics, blaming Republicans for a legislative stalemate that is delaying drought relief in the parched Midwest. The all-powerful Paul Ryan, the President declared, is ‘standing in the way.’ That’s a good one. The truth is that Mr. Obama has taken drought relief as a hostage in order to pass another trillion-dollar farm and food-stamp blowout.
“Mr. Ryan’s role, for the record, has been to call for reforms to a bloated farm program that today serves mainly to subsidize agribusiness and dispense food stamps.”
The Journal editorial stated that, “Meanwhile, the House Agriculture Committee produced a bill that cut $16.5 billion over 10 years from food stamps. But this falls well short of reforms in the Ryan budget that would return food stamps to their pre-2008 spending levels as well as block-grant the money to states. Speaker John Boehner knew his pro-reform caucus would revolt on the floor against the committee product, and he chose not to bring it up for a vote.
“Instead, the House passed a stand-alone $383 million emergency drought relief bill before it left for recess. The Senate could also have passed the relief measure and debated the $1 trillion farm bill another day, but Mrs. Stabenow and the White House blocked it. Why? Well, Iowa is a swing state this year, and Mr. Obama and Senate Democrats figure they can use drought relief to force Republicans to lock in a decade worth of bigger government and record food-stamp spending.”
In the meantime, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) was quoted in an article from Monday as saying, “We have no indication they [House Leadership] are going to take it [the Farm Bill] up in September.”
And as the calendar continues to move, Iowa Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley has been talking about a “discharge petition” in the House to bring political pressure on the Farm Bill issue.