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June 21
​Farm Bill Collapses in House after Contentious Debate

On June 20, the U.S. House of Representatives brought an abrupt end to its farm bill, defeating the measure by a vote of 195-234. Contention surrounding deficit reduction through cuts in nutritional assistance programs created enough tension within the House to dismantle any progress made toward passing the bill, officially known as the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (H.R. 1947).

Following last week’s passage of the U.S. Senate’s farm bill, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013 (S. 954), focus intensified on House leadership’s ability to generate enough support for its farm bill. The increasingly polarizing House measure would controversially cut $20.5 billion from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the food stamp program.  Thanks in part to these cuts, and despite the vocal support of Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) for the measure, the future of the legislation had been uncertain at best.

In an attempt to increase chances of passage for the bill, Speaker Boehner and House Majority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) asked the House Committee on Rules to grant members the ability to amend contested provisions on the House floor through an open rule debate.  The Rules Committee received 230 amendments for consideration, and following two separate emergency meetings, narrowed the list to 103 amendments to be considered on the floor.  For the full list of final amendments, click here.

As the farm bill slowly gained momentum in the House, senior White House officials stated that they would advise President Obama to veto the multi-year legislation due to the cuts it would make to SNAP. In a statement issued on June 17, the Administration criticized the House bill, suggesting that more appropriate cuts could instead be made to federal crop insurance subsidies, as was the case in the President’s proposed budget.

Meanwhile, by June 19, the House had voted on 51 of the 103 proposed amendments to the farm bill, including an amendment introduced by Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) that would have restored the proposed $20.5 billion cut to SNAP funding.  The amendment was struck down by a 188-234 vote.

Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) also offered an amendment, on stormwater runoff from forest roads, which was supported by NACo and passed by voice vote.  The amendment would have codified the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s long-standing policy that forest roads runoff should be regulated as nonpoint source pollution through states’ best management practices, rather than through the federal Clean Water Act’s National Pollution Discharge Elimination System program.  The amendment was identical to the bipartisan Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act (H.R. 2026).

Moving the farm bill again in this Congress will be challenging given last night’s failure, but House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) has expressed optimism regarding renewed attempts to pass a long-term measure during the 113th Congress. NACo will continue to closely monitor farm bill legislation.

Contact: Arthur Scott 202.942.4230


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