Monday, October 14, 2013
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Keith Good: House Names Farm Bill Conferees

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Pete Kasperowicz and Erik Wasson reported at The Hill’s Floor Action Blog that, “House Republicans and Democrats on Saturday named conferees to the House-Senate negotiations on the farm bill, in a sign that a three-year push to complete an agriculture subsidy and food stamp bill may finally be drawing to a close.

“Agriculture programs expired on Oct. 1 and the effects of the expiration will mount as farmers plan for upcoming harvests.

“Republicans named Rep. Steve Southerland (Fla.) as a conferee to represent GOP leadership and this is taken as a sign the House will insist on the $39 billion in food stamp cuts in the House-passed bill.”

The Hill writers indicated that, “Republicans also named 12 members of the House Agriculture Committee, but also two members from the House Foreign Affairs and Ways & Means Committees.

“The Agriculture Committee GOP conferees are Chairman Frank Lucas (Okla.), and Reps. Steve King (Iowa), Randy Neugebauer (Texas), Mike Rogers (Ala.), Michael Conaway (Texas), Glenn Thompson (Pa.), Austin Scott (Ga.), Rick Crawford (Ark.), Martha Roby (Ala.), Kristi Noem (S.D.), Jeff Denham (Calif.) and Rodney Davis (Ill.).

“House Foreign Affairs Committee will be represented by Chairman Ed Royce (Calif.) and Rep. Tom Marino (Pa.), and the Ways & Means Committee will be represented by Chairman Dave Camp (Mich.) and Rep. Sam Johnson (Texas).”

Yesterday’s update pointed out that, “Democrats countered the Southerland appointment by placing Congressional Black Caucus head and food stamp advocate Rep. Marsha Fudge (D-Ohio) on the panel.

“Ranking member Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) said that the conference could work if House leaders are willing to compromise.”

“House Democratic conferees in addition to Peterson and Fudge are Agriculture Committee members Reps. Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Jim Costa (Calif.), Tim Walz (Minn.), Kurt Schrader (Ore.), Jim McGovern (Mass.), Suzan DelBene (Wash.), Gloria Negrete McLeod(Calif.), Filemon Vela (Texas); Foreign Affairs Committee Rep. Eliot Engel (N.Y.), and Ways and Means Committee Sandy Levin (Mich.).”

Pete Kasperowicz reported yesterday at The Hill’s Floor Action Blog that, “The House on Saturday morning voted down two motions to instruct House conferees when they meet with the Senate to negotiate a final farm bill.

“One of these, from Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.), would repeal import limits on sugar in an effort to lower sugar prices for food manufacturers. The House had already opposed this language earlier this year when it debated the farm bill, and members rejected it today in a192-212 vote.”

With respect to the vote on the sugar motion, the American Sugar Alliance indicated in a statement yesterday that, “It is hard to imagine any issue that has been voted on as many times as sugar policy since congressional action on this Farm Bill began.  The Senate has rejected three amendments designed to gut U.S. sugar policy, and now the House has voted down two anti-sugar proposals.  It is obvious that the United States Congress has spoken and that lawmakers support current sugar policy and oppose attempts to undermine our nation’s food security.”

Also, to review the transcript of a debate on the sugar measure that took place on the House floor on Friday, see this portion (eight pages) of the Congressional Record.

In his update yesterday at The Hill Online, Mr. Kasperowicz added that, “The second [motion to instruct that was voted down on Saturday], from Agriculture Committee ranking member Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), would instruct House negotiators to agree to Senate language that authorizes the commodity and nutrition titles of the bill for five years.

“The House passed two separate bills — its commodity title is authorized for five years, and its nutrition title is authorized for three years. Democrats in particular oppose the idea of splitting the two authorizations, and want to continue considering farm policy and the federal food stamp program as part of the same bill.

“But the House rejected Peterson’s motion in a 195-204 vote.”

The Peterson measure was discussed on the House floor on Friday, a transcript of this debate from the Congressional Record is available here (seven pages).

During that discussion on Friday, Ranking Member Peterson explained that, “This motion contains two instructions for the farm bill conferees. One is to support the permanent law provisions in the Senate farm bill and what we currently have and have had for years and years. The second is to support the Senate position of a 5-year reauthorization of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

“To be clear, this motion keeps intact the longstanding alliance needed to pass a strong farm bill.”

Also Friday on the floor, while discussing the Peterson motion to instruct, House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) noted that, “I know my friend and a number of groups, in good faith, advocate that we keep that 1938 and 1949 law in place. But I would suggest to my colleagues, the open process we have been through, the open process we are about to have in conference, if we can come up with good language that a majority of both bodies can agree on, that a fellow down at the White House will sign if it is good policy, maybe the conference should be given the option, as is now the case within the farm bill language, of using the 2013 farm bill as base.”

David Rogers, writing yesterday at Politico, elaborated further on the Peterson motion to instruct, and noted that, “House Republicans only narrowly beat back a Democratic motion Saturday that sought to reassert the old agriculture and food aid alliance in upcoming talks with the Senate over a new Farm Bill.

“The 204-195 vote underscores the deep divide in the House over Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s strategy this past summer of stripping out and then rewriting the nutrition title of the five-year farm bill.”

Mr. Rogers stated that, “Going forward now in the talks with the Senate, the farm and nutrition titles will be treated as one bill again. But the internal time lines remain in the House version so that the food stamps’ reauthorization runs out in three years while commodity programs run for five.

“By breaking up the old alliance, critics of the food stamp program hope to gain leverage in the future. The Democratic motion sought to instruct conferees to move toward the Senate and keep the two sets of issues linked.

“‘The farm bill’s nutrition program needs to be on the same time line as the bill’s other provisions,’ said Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee. ‘It makes no sense to decouple farm and food programs; they go hand in hand.

“‘I worry that separating the two of them sets us on a path to no farm bill in the future,’ Peterson said. ‘The Senate farm bill preserves the partnership between farm and food programs, and we should defer to that approach.'”

And writing yesterday at the DTN Ag Policy Blog, Chris Clayton reminded readers that, “The House did approve, by a voice vote Friday, language would encourage the conferees to lower the premium subsidy for farmers making more than $750,000 in adjusted gross income, or $1.5 million for married couples. Under the provision, those higher-income farmers would see their premium subsidy lowered 15 percentage points, from a maximum of 62% to 47%. The language is comparable to an amendment added to the Senate farm bill on the floor last spring. Dozens of agricultural groups have expressed their disappointment over the language.”

The crop insurance measure was also discussed on the House floor on Friday; a transcript of the discussion from the Congressional Record can be viewed here (six pages).

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