House Farm Bill Debacle: What’s Next?

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) Provides In Depth Analysis of the Failure of the House Farm Bill and Delineates Ways Forward

Last week, we reported that the House of Representatives failed to pass a 2013 Farm Bill (see here, and here). Notable coverage and analysis of the bill’s failure comes in a three-part series published on the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) blog. For a short summary of each post (and a link to each), read on…

NSAC’s analysts covered the following: (1) farm program reform, (2) analysis of why the bill failed, and (3) options for a path forward on the bill.

On farm program reform: NSAC focused here on reform related to (a) crop subsidies for commodity agriculture, (b) crop insurance subsidies (and lack of payment limitations and conservation provisions attached to these), and (c) SNAP (food stamps). In particular, NSAC noted commodity subsidy limitation reform was passed in both the Senate bill and in House amendments, which constitutes a historic shift in policy making. But while commodity reform is a popular topic, revival of the House bill may ultimately hinge on modifying the current food stamp provision.

On why the bill failed: The House saw a breakdown in the urban-rural coalition that has been the backbone of the passage of prior farm bills. Typically, urban legislators support the bill because of food stamp funding and rural legislators support the bill for its farm subsidies. But $20.5 billion in proposed SNAP cuts in the House bill resulted in lagging urban (and Democratic) support. Republican leadership was unable to make up for the meager 24 Democrats supporting the bill with sufficient votes from their party, in part because the SNAP cuts were insufficient for Tea Party Republicans.

On options moving forward: Essentially, there is no easy, straightforward solution for a new long-term farm bill. This raises the question of farm bill extension; the current extension expires September 30. However, most players in the farm bill game would not find an extension acceptable, so the best option is for the House to revise their bill to garner sufficient votes for passage, and then to go to conference with the Senate.

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