House Agriculture Committee Approves Farm Bill—What’s Next?

Posted on: July 13th, 2012 by NADO Admin

On July 12, the House Agriculture Committee advanced a five year farm bill, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (FARRM) (H.R. 6083).  The House measure, which was approved by the committee 35 to 11, would amend and extend a number of major programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), including those addressing farm income support, food and nutrition, land conservation, trade promotion, rural development, research, forestry, energy, horticulture, and crop insurance, through fiscal year 2017.

Like the Senate bill, the House measure repeals or consolidates more than 100 programs.  The House bill would also reduce food and nutrition spending by more than $35 billion, mainly by cutting about $16.5 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly the food stamps program). The Senate bill (S. 3240), which was passed on June 21, cut about $23 billion in spending, with $4.5 billion in savings coming from food stamps. About 80 percent of farm bill spending goes to food stamps.

During yesterday’s 15-hour mark-up, the House Agriculture committee considered about 100 amendments to the legislation, including several that would impact regional development organizations and rural America. Rep. Mike McIntyre’s (D-NC) amendment to reauthorize the Northern Border Regional Commission and Southeast Crescent Regional Commission was ruled “out of order” by the Committee leadership and Rep. McIntyre was unable to offer the amendment. Other key amendments included:

  • An amendment offered by Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC) was rejected by voice vote that would have directed $50 million in mandatory spending to address the water and wastewater backlog at USDA.
  •  An amendment offered by Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) was rejected (26-18) that would have required the Secretary of USDA to give priority to economic development projects undertaken through a collaboration of stakeholders, including multiple layers of government.
  •  An amendment offered by Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY) was rejected (25-19) that would have allowed USDA to award loans in combination with grants when lending for broadband telecommunications services in rural areas.  The grants would not exceed 10 percent of the cost of the project involved.
  •  An amendment offered by Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY) was rejected by voice vote that would have raised the population threshold from 20,000 to 30,000 for rural areas to participate in the Community Facilities loans and grants programs.
  •  An amendment offered by Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY) was rejected (24-20) that would have increased the Rural Utilities Service Broadband Program authorization level from $25 million to $35 million and would have directed appropriators to provide no less than $25 million for loans and no less than $10 million for grants.
  •  An amendment offered by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT) was withdrawn that would have clarified the definition of an “unincorporated area” to include state or municipally designated townships, villages, boroughs, counties or municipal subdivisions.
  •  An amendment offered by Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA) was adopted by voice vote that would give greater flexibility to USDA’s Rural Business and Industry Loan Program by including the term “working capital” as an approved purpose.  The amendment would also allow rural small businesses to use their accounts receivable for securing adequate collateral during the underwriting process for the loan program.
  •  An amendment offered by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) was withdrawn that would have removed the cap on USDA’s Business and Industry loans in certain circumstances and would have authorized local and regional food systems as eligible for Rural Business Opportunity Grants.
  •  An amendment offered by Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) was adopted by voice vote that would reauthorize state-and-local rural development councils through 2017.

Moving forward, the big question remains whether or not the House Republican Leadership will move the bill to the floor before the November elections. House leaders also have the option to bypass a House floor vote and send the legislation directly to conference with the Senate, which approved its version of the farm bill (S. 3240) on June 21.

Although House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) have urged House leadership to move the bipartisan package forward, several obstacles stand in the way of getting a farm bill passed before the election: a short legislative calendar to complete work on the bill, major fundamental differences between House and Senate versions of the bill, and pressure from Republicans for larger cuts in government spending.

Ultimately, the House and Senate must work out a final compromise before Sept. 30, when the current five-year farm bill (passed in 2008) expires, or else an extension would be necessary.

Farm Bill Resources:

  • Click here to view a list of all the amendments offered at the Agriculture Committee mark-up as reported by CQ
  • Click here to view USDA Secretary Vilsack’s statement on the House farm bill
  • Click here (http://agriculture NULL.pdf) to view the legislative text of the House Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (FARRM)
  • Click here (http://agriculture NULL.pdf) to view the committee summary of FARRM
  • Click here to view the House Agriculture Committee press release
  • A committee summary of FARRM can be found here (http://agriculture NULL.pdf)
  • Click here to view a letter from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas on the estimated spending effects of FARRM
  • For more information on the Senate farm bill (S. 3240), including bill text and Senate Agriculture Committee summaries, click here
  • On June 6, NADO and 185 other organizations, as part of the Campaign for a Renewed Rural Development, sent a letter to the Senate requesting increased investment in rural development. To view the letter click here
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