In a raucous display on the House floor, lawmakers Thursday voted to 216-208 in favor of passing a "farm only" Farm Bill.
Though unclear at the beginning of the week just how lawmakers would move forward on the Farm Bill, House leadership believed they were ultimately able to collect enough support for a "splitting the bill" – keeping the nutrition provisions separate from farm-related provisions such as crop insurance.
The House Rules Committee in late-night discussion approved the move, though they barred lawmakers from making further amendments to the bill. But that didn't go over well with many Representatives who chastised the GOP for leaving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provisions behind.
Major differences in the new legislation, named H.R. 2642, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013, include a full repeal of 1938 and 1949 legislation, USDA program consolidation and inclusion of the Goodlatte-Scott dairy act.
While Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., acknowledged that the "farm-only Farm Bill" didn't represent everything that was brought up during discussion bill in June, he said it is a step in the right direction.
"It's no secret that my preference would have been to pass HR 1947 last month – but that didn't happen," noted Lucas. "This is a step forward to getting the farm bill on the books this year."
But there was plenty of opposition – even from the Ag Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., who said splitting the bill could lead to a departure from regular order and a farm bill hanging in the balance.
Peterson noted that had the "poison pill" amendments been removed from the House Farm Bill in June, there were votes to pass the full bill. But now, with provisions to eliminate '30s and '40s policies and include the Goodlatte-Scott, Peterson said he couldn't vote for the bill.
What's more, Peterson argued, those changes would mean that another farm bill will never be written.
"If you want to make sure congress never considers another farm bill…then vote for this bill," Peterson said, explaining the changes could mean permanent authorization of farm programs and therefore no additional changes to vegetable or fruit programs, title one programs and conservation provisions.
Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., like many other lawmakers, expressed skepticism that the House would not be able to return to the floor to pass a separate food stamp provision. She said the House has "reached a new low" in not being able to pass a farm bill – a traditionally bipartisan piece of legislation.
Though Rep. Lucas said just before a final vote on the bill that he couldn't guarantee the nutrition portion will be brought up immediately, he noted that, "if 218 of us can agree on a nutrition title, we'll ultimately have a product. But I just can't give you the kind of guarantees that you need."
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor indicated support for the food portion of the farm bill, adding that Senate and House leadership would be in talks to find a time for conferencing the portion passed Thursday.
Some groups Thursday recanted original positions opposing the farm bill split, noting that if a split is what gets the bill through, they will support it.
National Pork Producers Council CEO Neil Dierks noted that NPPC and 26 affiliates signed on to a letter offered by more than 500 farm groups last week, but were not aware of a change that included a statement of opposition if the nutrition title were split from the House Farm Bill.
"In fact, while removing the nutrition title is an unorthodox approach, NPPC and its affiliates support it if it leads to passage of a new Farm Bill, which is imperative to America's pork producers," Dierks clarified Thursday.
Similarly, the National Corn Growers and the Illinois Corn Growers reluctantly opted to support the split bill. ICGA President Paul Taylor said his organization was disappointed that it must take a position on the farm bill that "has adulterated the bipartisan and bicameral nature of farm bill legislation."
NCGA President Pam Johnson released a similar comment: "While we disagree with the policies of the legislation and are dismayed with the process that leads us to this sad situation, we see no other way to move the farm bill to a conference with the Senate unless the House approves the bill before it today."
The American Farm Bureau and a host of other organizations remained opposed to the split bill, many noting that it could potentially eliminate incentives to write future bills.
Read more on the House Farm Bill
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Farm Bill Split Appears on the Horizon
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Ag Interests React To House Defeat of Farm Bill
House Rejects Farm Bill 195-234