The current farm bill extension expires Monday at midnight. North Dakota Democrat Senator Heidi Heitkamp thinks all of the attention on the nutrition cuts is part of a long-term strategy by some to eliminate the farm bill.
“There’s been so much attention to nutrition but the long term strategy here is to kill the farm bill, and if you doubt this I would ask you to go out and read a National Review article, which was highly critical of this effort, saying this isn’t the problem in the farm bill, the farm bill’s the problem, so why are you doing this? I think that is very transparent what they’re doing and we just need to continue to focus on bringing nutrition back together, marrying it back together with the farm program and doing something that provides predictability to our agricultural industry that provides 16 million jobs in this country.”
Heitkamp says if the compromise cuts for nutrition are 10-billion dollars – she doubts the farm bill will pass in the House.
“The only way it passes the House is if the speaker is willing to back off the Hastert rule, which says that a majority of the votes that come to pass a bill have to come from the Republican side. I think $10 million will be a big lift for the Senate or the House Democrats but it might be possible for the House Democrats depending upon how the bill is fashioned and where they get the $10-billion.”
Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King is more optimistic and says the House of Representatives will take up a procedural motion this week to combine the farm-only farm legislation with the just-passed nutrition bill. He calls it a necessary step before the House can conference with the Senate on a new five-year farm bill.
“We have to go to the rules committee and get rules to bring a bill to the floor that will allow agriculture and the nutrition components to be negotiated as a package on the table at the conference committee with the Senate. I think they’ll do that. This is all procedural. I think we get that done this week and I expect that sometime in about a week the speaker will name the conferees and we will have already gone to work sorting out the differences.”
King says differences between the House and Senate farm bills are relatively minor – with the notable exception of the difference in cuts to nutrition programs. If a new farm bill isn’t signed into law by January 1st USDA will be forced to implement the 1949 permanent farm law. King says that’s not an option.
Source: NAFB News Service