Farm Bill- Debate, Discussion Persists on Splitting Farm, Nutrition Programs
Van Mitchell reported earlier this week at The Edmond Sun (Okla.) Online that, “U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, had a town hall meeting Tuesday afternoon at the Oklahoma Sports Museum where he discussed a variety of national topics including his work on a federal farm bill that was defeated last month in Congress.
“Lucas, who serves as chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, said he is working with his fellow Congressional counterparts on a new farm bill, which he hopes will be finalized and approved this fall.”
Mr. Mitchell noted that, “Lucas said part of the House leadership wants to remove the nutritional side of the farm bill and deal with it separately and take the rest of the programs under one umbrella bill.”
Chris Day reported this week at the Stillwater NewsPress (Okla.) Online that, “Congress will lose a golden opportunity to reform the food stamp program if social nutrition programs are stripped from the 2013 farm bill to smooth its approval in the House, U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas said Tuesday.
“The Oklahoma Republican is chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. He provided an overview of this Congressional session and answered constituent questions at a townhall meeting at the Stillwater Community Center.”
The article noted that, “House leadership has discussed separating nutrition programs into a separate bill, allowing farm programs to stand alone. House speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, is overseeing that effort.
“Lucas doesn’t favor the approach because the Senate has approved a comprehensive farm bill. A conference committee would have to reconcile three bills instead of two, he said.”
The NewsPress item added that, “The Senate Agriculture Committee chairwoman is Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat. Divide and conquer most likely assures passage of farm programs and kills social nutrition program reforms, Lucas said.
“‘There are groups driving this process back east — driving it hard. I would hate to think that they would prevent me from making the first and only reforms to the food stamp title since 1996,’ Lucas said. ‘The short answer is I don’t necessarily think it’s a good idea, but I will do what I have to do to get a bill passed.’”
Meanwhile, Randy Krehbiel reported earlier this week at the Tulsa World Online about a town hall meeting Tuesday night held by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R., Okla.), a freshman lawmaker who defeated incumbent John Sullivan in the GOP primary.
Mr. Krehbiel indicated that, “Although he was not asked Tuesday night about his role in defeating the farm bill on the House floor two weeks ago, Bridenstine brought it up in response to a different question. He reiterated his statement earlier in the day that the bill’s defeat represents a significant victory for conservatives.
“Bridenstine was among 62 Republicans voting against the bill written by the Agriculture Committee headed by U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and backed by House leadership.
“He said in Tuesday’s earlier town hall that the fight over the farm bill is a ‘tremendous story’ that could become a pivot point for national politics.”
The World article pointed out that, “Bridenstine said he and the 61 other Republicans who voted against GOP leadership to help defeat the bill two weeks ago are close to achieving one of their goals.
“Specifically, they want the bill split in two — one dealing with actual production and the other dealing with the nutrition programs that account for about 80 percent of the current bill’s costs.
“‘There has been this unholy alliance between food stamps and subsidies,’ Bridenstine said in response to a question. ‘Food stamps doubled under (President) George W. Bush and doubled again under President (Barack) Obama.’”
Mr. Krehbiel added that, “Defeating the farm bill on the House floor, Bridenstine said, ‘shows what can happen when conservatives are elected.’
“He indirectly took a poke at one of Lucas’ selling points for the bill — a $20.5 billion reduction in food stamps — saying, ‘When they come and say, ‘We’re going to cut $21 billion,’ well, how many trillions have we already spent?’”
AP writer Andrew DeMillo reported yesterday that, “Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton of Arkansas on Wednesday called for the separation of food stamps from a farm bill he opposed last month, saying he wouldn’t reconsider his vote on the measure without this ‘essential reform.’
“The freshman lawmaker was the only House member from Arkansas to vote against the five-year, half-trillion dollar bill when it came up for a vote last month. He said that isolating the portion of the bill that deals with food stamps would allow lawmakers to consider that issue separately from agricultural funding matters.
“‘Dividing it is one essential reform we need so we can have real reform to the food stamp program and then focus the farm bill where it should be legitimately focused, which is on farm policy,’ Cotton said, after holding a ‘coffee with your congressman’ event with constituents. ‘We’re still in the preliminary discussions about that in the Congress, but that’s one very basic reform that needs to happen.’”
The AP article pointed out that, “Cotton said the measure didn’t do enough to cut costs in the food stamp program.
“‘There’s a lot of fraud in it, there’s a lot of waste in it, there’s a lot of disincentives for getting people off food stamp rolls and back to work that really have nothing to do with farm policy,’ Cotton said. ‘We should be considering bills that focus on discrete, particular issues so we can make the best policy on those issues as opposed to legislative logrolling.’”
Tom Lutey reported on Tuesday at the Billings Gazette Online that, “After failing to pass a farm bill in June, House Republicans might cut food stamps from the legislation and try again, a move [freshman] Montana U.S. Rep. Steve Daines said could be the only way forward.
“‘Where do we go next?’ Daines, a Republican, asked the Billings Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday. ‘There is talk of splitting them up. Will that work? The jury is out, but it didn’t work keeping them together. You know they say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome. I think something needs to change on this.’”
Mr. Lutey noted that, “Tuesday, Daines told the Chamber of Commerce that the farm bill in its current form would be better titled the food stamp bill. Republicans have a strong majority in the House and could pass the farm bill if only they could coalesce on spending. But some Republicans want even deeper cuts to nutrition programs, while others say farm subsidies are also too heavily larded for approval.”
Also this week, Ed Tibbetts reported at The Quad-City Times (Davenport, Iowa) Online that, “[Freshman] Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., said Tuesday she doesn’t think splitting the farm bill into pieces will add enough votes to get it through the House of Representatives.
“Bustos, a member of the Agriculture Committee, didn’t say she opposed the approach, only that she would wait to see what it might look like. But, she added, separating the bill into one part that deals with farm programs and another dealing with nutrition, including food stamps, probably won’t get legislation through the House.
“‘Legislatively, if those two are separated, I think it’s very hard to get enough votes to move that forward,’ she said.”
With respect to the Senate, Daniel Looker reported yesterday at Agriculture.com that, “Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) likes the concept of splitting nutrition spending from the rest of the farm bill. He voted for that approach in the Senate last year.
“But Wednesday he said that route to getting a farm bill through Congress remains difficult.
“‘I’m not really convinced we can pass separate bills,’ he told reporters in a press conference.”
Mr. Looker explained that, “But in the House of Representatives, where a split farm bill is being reconsidered as one way to bring up legislation that was defeated on June 20, Grassley sees obstacles. The agricultural part of the farm bill might be hard to pass ‘where it’s so controlled by the urban areas,’ he said.”
Nebraska GOP Senator Mike Johanns was a guest on yesterday’s AgriTalk radio program with Mike Adams where the subject of splitting the Farm Bill into two parts came up. In part, the former Sec. of Agriculture noted, “it was important” to keep the nutrition title and commodity title “together.”
Related audio of Sen. Johanns remarks from yesterday’s AgriTalk program can be heard here (MP3- 1:21).
Also, Thomas Garcia reported this week at the Quay County Sun (Tucumcari, New Mexico) Online that, “Support for the U.S. Senate’s Farm Bill, compromise concerning eastern New Mexico water projects and continued legislative support for rural medical facilities were topics discussed by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., Monday in Tucumcari.
“Udall said last week the House took up a Farm Bill, which collapsed and the country continues to operate under an extension of the previous farm bill. Udall called the situation simply not acceptable.”
The article noted that, “‘I have told the House if they can not come up with a bill of their own, they need to take up our bill and we have to work together to get it signed into law,’ Udall said.”
In other developments, a news update from The Human Society of the United States this week stated that, “Quiznos, the pioneer of the toasted sandwich, announced it will work closely with its suppliers to eliminate controversial pig ‘gestation crates’ from its supply chain between 2017 and 2022. The cages, used to confine breeding pigs, have been criticized in recent years by animal welfare advocates and the food industry alike, and Quiznos had introduced some gestation crate-free pork into its restaurants in 2008. Quiznos’ announcement earned applause from the Humane Society of the United States.”