In a Stunning Vote, House Rejects the Farm Bill
House Democrats and a group of small-government conservatives on Thursday defeated the Farm Bill (H.R. 1947), by a vote of 195-234, after days of late-night work and consideration of amendments. Specialty crop provisions important to the floral industry remained in the bill, but their future is uncertain unless the House can agree on a path forward.
Only 24 Democrats voted for the measure, while 62 Republicans voted against it.
In general, both Republican and Democratic representatives from agriculturally important districts supported the bill, while urban representatives opted to vote against it, considering the SNAP (“food stamp”) provisions either too large or not large enough. Click here to see how your representative voted.
“The defeat of the House bill is shocking,” says SAF’s Lin Schmale. “We had a strong, bipartisan bill for specialty crops and indeed for all of agriculture. We can only hope that the House leadership and the House Agriculture Committee can figure out a way to move something forward before the current bill expires on September 30.”
The House bill would have cut the SNAP program by $20.5 billion, far more than the Senate-passed bill. Agriculture ranking Democrat Collin C. Peterson, of Minnesota, said after the vote that the adoption of a Rep. Steve Southerland (R-2-Fla.), amendment to mandate work requirements for SNAP recipients was the last straw for Democrats. Even very conservative Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) lamented the bill’s failure, saying “Some of them seem to think that if we hold out we will actually get larger cuts in food stamps.”
Several of the current law’s specialty crop programs are now at risk, including the Specialty Crop Research Initiative and the National Clean Plant Network, both of which expired at the end of 2012. SAF members lobbied for these measures during Congressional Action Days last March.
An extension of the current law would renew contentious annual direct payments to row-crop farmers, and revert to the 1949 dairy support program, causing milk prices to rise to about $7/gallon, according to analysts. By contrast, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the House bill would have saved about $15 billion more in reforms to the SNAP program than would the Senate-passed bill. The House bill, estimated to cost $940 billion over 10 years, would have expanded federal crop insurance by nearly $9 billion, relying more on that program to help farmers manage risk.
“This is a sad example of what happens when the far left and the far right both refuse to come to the middle,” Schmale said. “We can only keep working to try to advance the important issues in this legislation that matter to our industry."
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