Farm Bill Follies 2012?
The U.S. Senate passed its version of the farm bill. Up next, the U.S. House of Representatives. Word from Ag Chair Frank Lucas, R-Okla., is that mark-up of the bill is expected to begin on July 11 with high hopes that the bill will go to the full House before August recess. The biggest stumbling block: nutrition spending.
While the Senate cut nutrition programs by $4.5 billion, there’s still a huge divide between the House and Senate bills. House leadership wants massive cuts. Senate Ag Chair Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., says that level of reduction “is absolutely unacceptable to me and the majority of those in the Senate”.
The Senate passed a bi-partisan version of the farm bill. In the House, the lines are being drawn very differently with language from Republican House leadership signaling they are ready to rumble when in comes to the nutrition side of the farm bill.
In an Agri-Talk radio program just yesterday, Rep. Lucas had this to say, “Since we spend about 80%, at the current time, of all farm bill spending on the feeding programs – school lunch, SNAP, WIC, whatever … everything else is only about 20%, it still means that the part of the bill that raises the food and fiber takes the biggest hit. We’ll see if our nutrition activists want to acknowledge that.”
Debates over balancing the interests of feeding children and families, commodity farming and conservation concerns are not new. Pitting farmers against nutrition advocates sets up a potential for undermining support for passage of a fair and equitable farm bill. According to National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson, a debate over nutrition entitlements will muddy the waters. It should be noted that neither the NFU nor the American Farmer Bureau Federation have indicated support for additional nutrition title cuts.
The current bill expires on September 30, 2012. Contact your member of Congress here. Make your views known!