The US House made history on Thursday by passing the first ever Farm Bill that does not include funding for food and nutrition programs. The final vote of 216 to 208 was along party lines with only 9 Republicans voting against the bill. The debate on the House floor was extremely partisan and often very contentious. House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas led the fight for the Farm Bill which, for the first time, separates farm policy from food stamp policy. Lucas said the bill is good for agriculture and good for America, “Today was an important step toward enacting a five-year Farm Bill this year that gives our farmers and ranchers certainty, provides regulatory relief to small businesses across the country, significantly reduces spending, and makes common-sense, market-oriented reforms to agricultural policy. I look forward to continuing conversations with my House colleagues and starting conversations with my Senate colleagues on a path forward that ultimately gets a Farm Bill to the President’s desk in the coming months.”
House Ag Committee ranking member Collin Peterson said Democrats oppose the removal of SNAP funding, “First and foremost, I believe the strategy of splitting the Farm Bill is a mistake that jeopardizes the chances of it ever becoming law. And repealing permanent law all but ensures that we will never write a Farm Bill again.”
Indiana Congressmen Marlin Stutzman, who was responsible for generating support for a standalone Farm Bill, called it a historic opportunity to make real reform, “Farm policy and food stamp policy should not be mixed. As Congress immorally sinks our country into $17 trillion in debt, taxpayers deserve an open and honest discussion on how our money is being spent.” He added, by separating farm and food policy, both can be evaluated on their own merits. A month ago Stutzman was a lone voice crying in the wilderness for a split Farm Bill. House leadership, however, warmed to the idea despite opposition from most major farm groups. A 600 page standalone bill emerged from the House Rules committee late last evening and was placed before the full House on Thursday morning.
The bill is historic in another way in that it now becomes permanent law and eliminates previous provisions adopted in the 1930s and 40s. Republicans argued that this approach was a way to get a Farm Bill passed by the House without the baggage of the food and nutrition programs which caused the Farm Bill to be defeated by the House last month.
In theory, the House Farm Bill will now go to conference with the Senate passed bill which does contain funding for food and nutrition programs. AFBF President Bob Stallman says he is relieved that the House finally passed a Farm Bill, but admits the future is unclear about where the legislation will go from here, “While we were hopeful the Farm Bill would not be split, nor permanent law repealed, we will now focus our efforts on working with lawmakers to deliver a Farm Bill to the President’s desk for his signature by September.”