Not all the fun and games are taking place at the Indiana State Fair. In Washington, the political games continue with the Farm Bill. House Republicans announced yesterday they had a nutrition bill ready for consideration that would cut $40 billion from food and nutrition programs. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas told the Agribusiness Club of Washington that the nutrition bill working group established by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has reached agreement on a nutrition bill that would cut spending by $40 billion dollars over 10 years. South Dakota Representative Kristi Noem, a member of the working group, said lawmakers developed six to seven points that Cantor will use to write legislation over the August recess. According to Lucas, the measure will be brought up in September. Noem said it could even come up the first week members return to Washington. Lucas told reporters the agreement includes the $20.5 billion in cuts included in the bill approved by the House Agriculture Committee, retains amendments added on the floor in June, and adds other cuts. The Farm Bill approved by the Senate only makes $4 billion dollars in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Democrats in both the House and Senate say this is just another roadblock to progress on a Farm Bill. House Ag Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson calls the legislation is another political messaging bill to nowhere. He says the Republican Leadership clearly has no interest in compromise or actual legislating. According to Peterson, “Adding an additional $20 billion dollars in nutrition cuts on top of the poison pill nutrition amendments that brought down the committee’s bipartisan farm bill in June effectively kills any hopes of passing a five-year farm bill this year.” Senate Ag Committee chairman Debbie Stabenow said the Senate will not go to conference on a Farm Bill until after the House passes their new nutrition bill, “We are at a point where we cannot negotiate.” The Michigan Democrat said this is another sign that House leaders don’t really want a Farm Bill.
With the House in session only 9 days in September, it is unlikely a new Farm Bill will be ready before the current extension runs out Sept 30. Stabenow does not believe there is enough support for another extension. Lucas would not predict whether it would be able to garner the 218 votes required for passage of the nutrition bill by the House. He also suggested agreement on a final conference report nutrition title would probably require intervention from on high.