US Senate Agrees to Conference House

The U.S. House – by the narrowest of margins – has passed on a nearly straight party-line vote a farm bill without a key nutrition title. The stripped -down bill passed 216 to 208 with all Democrats voting no – and all but 12-Republicans voting yes. Republicans argued they had no choice after the full farm bill’s defeat last month – largely over highly controversial food stamp cuts and restrictive amendments. Democrats railed that the vastly slimmed down farm-only bill would deprive millions of children, poor and elderly of benefits – be rejected by the Senate – vetoed by the President – and imperil future farm bills by ending 1938 and 1949 permanent law and splitting the traditional farm bill coalition.

More than 530 groups – including the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union – opposed breaking up the bill – but urged bipartisan cooperation in House-Senate negotiations to assemble a compromise that can pass and be signed by the President. Senate Chair Debbie Stabenow charged the House-passed bill is not a real farm bill – and is an insult to rural America – but agreed to go to conference with the House. House Ag Chair Frank Lucas admitted he would have preferred to pass the full farm bill – but argued that didn’t happen…

“I asked you today to vote for a farm bill. And all of you who represent farmers and ranchers, the men and women who raise the food and fiber to get things done in this country, when you go talk to them they will say ‘why didn’t we do that all along?’. The nutrition title. Let me give you my personal pledge, the committee will work, to craft language.”

But with no guarantees what it might look like – though Democrats dismissed the chances for a second bill and conference talks where Stabenow insists on Senate food stamp language are likely well before further House action. Top House Ag Democrat Collin Peterson charged the GOP had made the farm bill a political bill – railing they’d finally succeeded in making him – now opposed to the bill – a partisan. He predicted the new bill – by ending permanent law – would ensure Congress never again passes a farm bill…

“If you make the new farm safety net programs a new permanent law, then what you have is permanent authorization of food stamps and crop insurance and the title one programs.”

Chairman Lucas disagreed – citing the supply-control paradigm of the old laws when Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman held office…

“I know many of you said that is the hammer in which we force things to happen. Well the hammer hasn’t worked well in the past two years. Its time to move past that old paradigm. To craft good agricultural policy for rural American and for the consumers out there.”

Peterson – voicing the frustration of many – recalled he held the first hearing on the farm bill in April 2010 when he was still Chairman – and said he is sick and tired of working on this bill – urging his colleagues to get it over with. is dedicated to serving the agricultural industry in the Carolinas and Virginia with the latest ag news, exclusive regional weather station readings, and key crop market information. The website is a companion of the Southern Farm Network, provider of daily agricultural radio programming to the Carolinas since 1974. presents radio programs, interviews and news relevant to crop and livestock production and research throughout the mid-Atlantic agricultural community.

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