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Congress Stunts Farm Bill's Growth
A new farm bill remains in limbo as House leadership decides whether to consider the massive agriculture and food policy legislation this year, despite the current law’s expiration on Sept. 30.
On July 12, the House Agriculture Committee passed the Federal Agriculture Reform & Risk Management Act of 2012 (H.R. 6083), a five-year farm bill. Like its Senate-approved counterpart (S. 3240), the House legislation received bipartisan support and reduces spending through cuts to the food stamp program and reform of farm subsidies.
The future of the nearly $500 billion House farm bill is far less certain. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has indicated reluctance to bring the bill up for a full-House vote, since it would likely expose GOP divisions before Election Day.
Much of the debate over the bill centers on the scope of the proposed cuts to the food stamp program. The House slashes the program by $1.6 billion while the Senate would trim $400 million.
Both the House and Senate bills would also significantly reform the complex system of farm subsidies. While S. 3240 ends direct price support payments, the House bill would give farmers and ranchers the choice of pursuing direct payments during times of emergency or sticking with federal crop insurance programs.
The political wild card in this scenario is the summer drought that continues to plague much of the country. Democrats and Republicans alike are pressuring Speaker Boehner to bring the House bill to a vote so that distressed farmers in the Midwest can see some relief and longer-term certainty for future growing seasons. However, many fiscal conservatives remain steadfast in their opposition to farm subsidies.
Article Date: 2012-07-23
Source: Associated Equipment Distributors
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