Farm Bill Voted Down but Not Out
In a surprise move on Friday, the House voted to reject the current version of the Farm Bill. After 3 years in the making and after 3 days on the House floor, the new Farm Bill was expected to pass with solid Republican support and equally as solid Democratic opposition. But that is not the way things went as the bill went down to defeat by a vote of 198-213. A group of 30 GOP lawmakers, known as the Freedom Caucus, voted against the bill insisting that the House take action immigration reform before they would support the Farm Bill. Last minute efforts by speaker Paul Ryan failed to break the deadlock. Ryan was able to pass a motion to reconsider, which was then postponed. This means the bill could come back for a vote at a later date, but it is unclear what the next move on the legislation will be.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway said the bill is down but not out, “We experienced a setback today after a streak of victories all week. We may be down, but we are not out. We will deliver a strong, new farm bill on time as the President of the United States has called on us to do. Our nation’s farmers and ranchers and rural America deserve nothing less.”
Farm groups expressed disappointment, but vowed to fight on:
“Plain and simple: the farm bill matters,” said ASA President John Heisdorffer, Iowa farmer.
Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said farmers are perplexed and outraged by the House action, “They are facing very real financial challenges. We call on all members of Congress not to use farmers and ranchers as pawns in a political game.”
“NCGA urges House Leaders to quickly find a way forward to pass a new farm bill as soon as possible,” added North Dakota farmer Kevin Skunes, president of the National Corn Growers Association.
Alison Cooke, with the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, said action is needed to deal with important issues facing farmers and ranchers.
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue stated, “A Farm Bill is necessary to provide our farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers with the stability and predictability they need. Our farmers feed the people of this nation and the world, and they deserve the certainty of a Farm Bill.”
The House Freedom Caucus, which orchestrated the defeat, consists of roughly three-dozen conservatives that have made immigration a signature issue. Democrats in the chamber cheered as the bill failed, as the minority party says it was given no chance to provide input on the bill and objects to changes in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway disagreed, stating on the House floor that Democrats refused to provide input before lawmakers voted down a motion by Democrats to send the bill back to committee. Meanwhile, Ranking Democrat of the House Agriculture Committee, Collin Peterson, says the failure provides “a good opportunity for us to return to the table” and “fix” the bill before moving forward.