FarmPolicy

October 24, 2014

Farm Bill; Budget; Biofuels; and, Immigration

Farm Bill- House SNAP Measure

David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “House Republicans pushed toward a showdown vote on food stamp cuts Thursday despite growing concern about the level of the reductions and their impact on already ongoing state and city efforts to improve employment training for the poor.

“The 10-year savings of $39 billion would hit hardest in the next 24 months. An estimated 3.8 million people could be dropped from the rolls in 2014, and another 850,000 see a reduction in benefits. Together with already scheduled cuts in November, this will translate into a 12 percent reduction in federal spending for food stamp benefits by 2015.”

Mr. Rogers noted that, “Promoted by Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the 109-page package is being offered now as essentially the House rewrite of the nutrition title for a new five-year farm bill.

“It was Cantor who engineered the July vote  to pass a farm bill — stripped of the nutrition title. The goal now is to fill in that empty space with the reforms he wants and move next to House-Senate talks on a comprehensive farm package.

“Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has signaled he will appoint House conferees soon after the Cantor package is disposed of. This adds to the pressure on farm-state Republicans to go along on Thursday’s vote.”

The Politico article explained that, “Cantor consulted with selected conservatives in crafting the bill, but he has operated as a virtual committee-of-one with no public legislative markup of the changes. This has had a ripple effect in that the Congressional Budget Office has only provided a partial score of the bill’s impact on food stamp enrollment and to a surprising degree, refused to say anything more on the record regarding its analysis.”

At yesterday’s Rules Committee hearing on the nutrition measure, Ag Committee member Jim McGovern (D., Mass.) noted that, “I regret very much that this bill before us today had no hearings in the Agriculture Committee, never mind the Subcommittee, no hearings at all.   No markups.  It was written in Eric Cantor’s living room and now it’s before the Rules Committee.  And that’s just not a very good process” (related audio- MP3- 1:33).

In a discussion yesterday on KKBS radio (Guymon, Okla.), House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) noted that, “The [House nutrition] bill does away with automatic food stamps, categorical eligibility.  If it passes, ultimately is in the farm bill and signed into law—and remember, the President doesn’t like this—but it would require that everybody who needs food stamps, they have to apply, show their income and their assets.  Forty some states have something called categorical eligibility.  If you get any kind of a federal welfare benefit, you automatically get food stamps.  We end that.

“The bill we’ll vote on ends the advertising of food stamps in the United States and in foreign countries…The bill has a work requirement.  If you’re able-bodied, you’ve got to show that you work, I think it’s 20 hours a month, in some capacity.”

Chairman Lucas also noted that, “The bill says that states can require you to pass a drug test if they want to to get your food stamps.”

In remarks yesterday to Mike Adams on the AgriTalk radio program regarding the GOP nutrition measure, House Ag Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D., Minn.) stated that, “We don’t need to do this bill to get to conference, although some people are trying to act or tell people that they have to do this.  That’s not true.  And I’ve been in the room with the Senate enough over the last two years to tell you that they’re not going anywhere close to this.  If we get them to eight or ten billion on food stamps, that’s going to be the very outside, so by moving this thing from 20 to 40, you’re moving this in exactly the wrong direction.

“And there are a lot of other issues that haven’t even been talked about, problems that we have between us and the Senate that have got to be worked out on payment limits, and conservation compliance, and the differences between the safety nets to replace the direct payments that will be hard enough to work out without adding all these other complications.”

Rep. Peterson added that, “Now, something could happen.  Maybe something’s going to develop that I don’t see, and I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t see it right now…[A]nd I just want to assure people, in spite of that, we are not going to give up.  We are going to continue to try to figure out how to untangle this and get this done, but right now I’m not very optimistic.”

Meanwhile, Pete Kasperowicz reported yesterday at The Hill’s Floor Action Blog that, “House Democrats took to the House floor Wednesday morning to urge their colleagues to vote against a Republican bill aimed at requiring able-bodied adults to work to receive food stamp benefits for longer than three months.”

The Hill update noted that, “‘It is cruel, it is immoral,’ said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) of the bill. McGovern also dismissed the idea that the SNAP program is rife with fraud [video replay].

Mr. Kasperowicz indicated that, “Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) similarly accused Republicans of using the deficit as cover to take food away from the hungry…Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said the bill is part of the GOP’s ‘war on the poor.’”

Note that remarks on the House floor yesterday regarding the GOP nutrition measure from Reps. McDermott and Lee, as well as, Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D., Il.), and Marc Veasey (D., Tex.), can be viewed here.

Reps. Emanuel Cleaver (D., Mo.) (video replay) and Ag Committee Member Bill Enyart (D., Il.) (video replay and news release) also spoke on the floor yesterday about the SNAP program.

AP writer Mary Clare Jalonick reported yesterday that, “Republican House leaders are working to line up votes for nearly $4 billion in annual food stamp cuts, but some GOP moderates are questioning if that is too much… ‘I think the cuts are too drastic and too draconian,’ says Republican Rep. Michael Grimm of New York, who represents Staten Island, which was hard hit by Hurricane Sandy last year. ‘Those that really need the program will suffer.’

Grimm says he plans to vote against the bill. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, also plans a ‘no’ vote, according to his spokesman, Michael Anderson. He said Young is concerned about the impact the cuts could have on people in his state’s poorest, most rural areas.”

Ms. Jalonick explained that, “With some Republicans wavering, Thursday’s vote could be close. The GOP leaders have been reaching out to moderates to ensure their support while anti-hunger groups have similarly worked to garner opposition.”

With respect to the executive branch, yesterday’s article stated that, “In a statement Wednesday, the White House issued a veto threat.”

In addition, Erik Wasson reported yesterday at The Hill’s On the Money Blog that, “Democrats are hoping that 17 Republicans will defect on the bill, developed by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) after he could not get enough Republicans to vote for a farm bill that contained $20 billion in cuts to food stamps.

“On Wednesday, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) told reporters he was a ‘no’ on the bill.”

The Hill article pointed out that, “Members of the whip team on the food stamp bill say they are not worried the vote will fail.

“‘It’ll pass,’ said Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) said. Conaway is eager to complete the bill in order to jumpstart a House-Senate farm bill conference committee and complete the 2013 farm bill by packaging the new cuts into an integrated piece of legislation.”

Ed O’Keefe reported in today’s Washington Post that, “Aides representing lawmakers in both parties expect a narrow vote, though GOP aides insisted that they will earn the support of most House Republicans. Democrats suggested, however, that as many as 20 House Republicans from the Northeast and rural states with large low-income populations, who have previously rejected similarly dramatic cuts in food-stamp money, might vote against the bill.”

Kristina Peterson reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “Some House Republicans had hoped the bill would go even further to overhaul the food-stamps program. Rep. John Fleming (R., La.) called the cuts ‘wholly inadequate’ and said he planned to vote against the bill.”

Erik Wasson reported yesterday at The Hill’s On the Money Blog that, “House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said Wednesday he is undecided on the food stamp-cutting bill coming to the House floor this week… On Wednesday, Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) said he is undecided as did Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.).”

And Ron Nixon noted in today’s New York Times that, “Dale Moore, executive director of public policy for the American Farm Bureau Federation, the nation’s largest farm group, said it had not taken a position on the bill. ‘It’s out of our hands,’ he said.”

A news release yesterday from the National Farmers Union (NFU) stated that, “[NFU] President Roger Johnson sent a letter to U.S. House of Representatives leadership today, urging a no vote on H.R. 3102, the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act of 2013, and asking instead for conferees to be named to the farm bill conference committee.”

Meanwhile, an update yesterday from the Rules Committee stated that, “Debate Time – H.R. 3102: Provides one hour of debate equally divided and controlled by the chair and ranking minority member of the Committee on Agriculture.  Provides each measure a motion to recommit.”

Also yesterday, Chris Clayton reported at the DTN Ag Policy Blog that, “While the House of Representatives prepares for another round of floor debate on cutting food assistance, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow says the lower chamber’s desire to cut people from food stamps isn’t centered around reality.

“‘What the House Republicans are voting on is nothing more than extremely divisive, extremely partisan political exercise that by the way is going nowhere,’ Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, said on the Senate floor Wednesday. ‘And it is jeopardizing the passage of a five-year farm bill.’”

Note that a replay of Chairwoman Stabenow’s floor presentation and remarks as prepared for delivery, can be found here, at FarmPolicy.com Online.

The DTN update indicated that, “‘The House bill will never see the light of day in the United States Senate,’ she said. ‘It’s time to stop the political games around hunger in America.’

“Stabenow also noted that the House bill has a perverse financial incentive that would allow states to keep half the money that would be spent on food when they cut people off food assistance.”

Senate Ag Committee Member Heidi Heitkamp (D., N.D.) also spoke briefly about the Farm Bill on the Senate floor yesterday ; and, a news release from Senator John Hoeven (R., N.D.), who also serves on the Ag Committee, stated yesterday that, “In a speech on the Senate floor, Hoeven called on members of the House of Representatives to resolve their nutrition title issue and to name conferees.”

 

Farm Bill- Sugar, OECD

Alexandra Wexler reported yesterday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Wednesday that it plans to buy more domestic sugar to sell to U.S. ethanol makers, in an effort to prevent additional defaults on government loans.”

Emiko Terazono reported yesterday at The Financial Times Online that, “Farmers in China, Indonesia and Kazakhstan saw some of the largest increases in state support during 2012 as governments focused on self-sufficiency policies to boost agricultural production, according to new figures released by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

“Although the share of farmers’ income derived from subsidies only rose 1 percentage point in the OECD as a whole – the figure rose 4 percentage points in China to 17 per cent, 6 percentage points in Indonesia to 21 per cent and 4 percentage points in Kazakhstan to 15 per cent, according to the Paris-based organisation’s annual Agricultural Policy Monitoring and Evaluation report.”

The FT article noted that, “Calling for farm support reform, Ken Ash, OECD trade and agricultural director, said: ‘Meeting the needs of a growing and richer world population requires a shift away from the distorting and wasteful policies of the past towards measures that improve competitiveness, allowing farmers to respond to market signals while ensuring that much-needed innovation is fully funded.’”

 

Budget

Lisa Mascaro reported yesterday at the Los Angeles Times Online that, “House Republicans united Wednesday around a plan to use the threat of a government shutdown as leverage to repeal President Obama’s healthcare law, confident the American people are on their side.

“House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) yielded to his right flank by agreeing to attach the healthcare law repeal to a must-pass bill to keep the government funded past Sept. 30. A vote is expected Friday on a bill that would allow the government to stay open for the next few months.

“The measure is all but certain to pass the Republican-led House, but faces rejection in the Senate, where the Democratic majority has shown little interest in undoing Obama’s signature domestic achievement.”

The article added that, “By mid-October, Congress will be asked to raise the debt limit, and Republican leaders are gearing up to demand a one-year delay of the healthcare law as part of any deal with the White House. The funding bill, if approved, would keep the government open through Dec. 15.

“How Congress will handle the Sept. 30 deadline for a government funding resolution remains an open question.”

 

Biofuels

Reuters writer Ayesha Rascoe reported earlier this week that, “As the United States gets closer to being unable to meet federal biofuel targets, a regulatory adjustment would lessen the need for legislation to change the nation’s renewable fuel policy, said a lawmaker who is examining the future of the ethanol program.

“Representative John Shimkus, a Republican from Illinois and head of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, said the timing and substance of the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2014 biofuel proposal could make legislative reform of the Renewable Fuel Standard moot.

“Shimkus said he expects a decision on whether legislation will be introduced to be reached by the year-end.”

AP writer Jason Dearen reported yesterday that, “A panel of federal judges on Wednesday upheld California’s first-in-the-nation mandate requiring fuel producers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday rejected arguments from fuel makers that California’s ‘Low Carbon Fuel Standard’ discriminated against out-of-state producers.

“The ruling reverses a U.S. District Court ruling in favor of the plaintiffs, and removes an injunction that at one point halted implementation of the law.”

The article noted that, “But 9th Circuit Judge Ronald Gould, who wrote the opinion, said the state’s standard provided fuel makers with avenues to comply with the requirements and get their fuels to market.

He also wrote ethanol made in-state does not ensure a lower carbon intensity score than ethanol made elsewhere.

“‘California ethanol produces the most transportation emissions because California grows no corn for ethanol, so its producers import raw corn, which is bulkier and heavier than the refined ethanol shipped by producers in Brazil and the Midwest,’ Gould wrote.”

And University of Illinois Agricultural Economists Scott Irwin and Darrel Good penned an update yesterday at the farmdoc daily blog titled, “Recent Trends in Biodiesel Prices and Production Profits.”

 

Immigration

David Nakamura reported in today’s Washington Post that, “Immigration advocates reacted angrily Wednesday to President Obama’s declaration that he does not have the authority to completely halt the deportations of millions of people who are living in the country illegally. The heated response, from some of the administration’s closest allies, reflects the mounting frustration many feel about the diminishing prospects for immigration reform on Capitol Hill.

“The blowback was further evidence of the high stakes involved for the president on one of his second-term priorities as House Republicans continue to delay action on a proposed overhaul of the nation’s border control laws.

“After focusing for months on GOP lawmakers, advocates erupted at Obama after he said in a television interview Tuesday that he is powerless to scale back mass deportations — estimated at more than 1,000 per day.”

Keith Good

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