As lawmakers take a break over the Fourth of July holiday, more than 500 ag industry groups aren't about to let up on their push for a new five-year farm bill, calling on House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Tuesday to bring the bill back for a second vote.
The House defeated the farm bill 195-234 on June 20. Immediately, speculation and finger-pointing surfaced claiming that not only were steep cuts to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance programs a sticking point for many lawmakers, additional amendments to the bill added insult to injury.
"We've taken a bipartisan bill and made it a partisan bill," Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said on the House floor shortly after the bill's defeat. The statement was part of a larger exchange with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., who blamed Democrats for voting down the bill.
Groups urge lawmakers to avoid separating farm programs and nutrition provisions
Questioning the ability
of the House to work in a bipartisan manner on the bill has been the sentiment of many other lawmakers looking to get something – anything, even – done before the Sept. 30 expiration of last year's 2008 Farm Bill extension.
Due to the Senate's relatively quick agreement on their version of the bill, some lawmakers are pushing to bring that version into the House. Last week, that was the proposition of Illinois Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos, who said the Senate bill "may not be perfect, but Senate Democrats and Republicans were able to come together to get a bill passed, and the House should do the same."
Splitting the bill?
Aside from passing the Senate version or bringing the bill back up, rumblings of splitting the bill into two pieces – one portion for nutrition assistance and the other for farm programs – haven't been well-received by ag committee leadership and clearly not by the more than 500 farm groups that signed on to Tuesday's letter.
"Farm bills represent a delicate balance between America’s farm, nutrition, conservation, and other priorities, and accordingly require strong bipartisan support," the letter noted. "We believe that splitting the nutrition title from the rest of the bill could result in neither farm nor nutrition programs passing, and urge you to move a unified farm bill forward."
The National Farmers Union previously came out in opposition to splitting the bill last week, saying such a move would be a potentially "jarring disruption to the historic coalition of urban, rural and conservation groups."