Our Long, National Farm-Bill Nightmare Is Over

After three years of congressional wrangling, the Senate has passed the bill.

Shoulder-high stalks are seen in a corn field July 5, 2006 in Prairie View, Illinois. Despite above average precipitation this spring, a devasting drought last summer that dragged into early 2006 continues to pose a threat to crops. Last year's corn crop was able to weather the drought thanks to saved-up soil moisture, a factor experts say is missing this year. Despite the concerns, this year's crop is well ahead of last year, according to experts.
National Journal
Elahe Izadi
Add to Briefcase
Elahe Izadi
Feb. 4, 2014, 10:01 a.m.

It took Con­gress three years to pass a bill that deals with the most fun­da­ment­ally uni­ver­sal as­pect of Amer­ic­an life: eat­ing.

The Sen­ate gave the fi­nal stamp of ap­prov­al on the five-year farm bill Tues­day, vot­ing 68-32. The 959-page, nearly $1 tril­lion bill is a massive over­haul of food policy, and cov­ers all sorts of food-re­lated items, such as elim­in­at­ing dir­ect pay­ments to farm­ers in lieu of crop in­sur­ance and cut­ting $8 bil­lion in food-stamp fund­ing.

The fi­nal bill is a product of on-again, off-again con­fer­ence-com­mit­tee ne­go­ti­ations. “It’s done!” Sen­ate Ag­ri­cul­ture Com­mit­tee Chair­wo­man Debbie Stabenow ex­claimed after its fi­nal pas­sage. Fel­low Demo­crat­ic Sen. Bar­bara Mikul­ski had giv­en her a high-five on the Sen­ate floor dur­ing the vote.

But not every­one was pleased with the fi­nal product.

Nine Sen­ate Demo­crats, in­clud­ing Kirsten Gil­librand and Eliza­beth War­ren, joined 23 Re­pub­lic­ans in op­pos­ing the bill.

Sen. Robert Ca­sey of Pennsylvania and oth­er Demo­crats cited cuts to the Sup­ple­ment­al Nu­tri­tion As­sist­ance Pro­gram, aka food stamps, in their de­cision to op­pose the bill.

“There’s a lot in the bill that I could cer­tainly sup­port…. Debbie Stabenow de­serves a lot of cred­it for drop­ping it down from where the House was,” Ca­sey said Tues­day. The House ver­sion of the bill called for $39 bil­lion in SNAP cuts. “But I just couldn’t at this time sup­port a cut of that di­men­sion.”

In­de­pend­ent Sen. Bernie Sanders also wor­ried about the food-stamp cuts but said he voted for the bill after re­ceiv­ing as­sur­ances from Ver­mont Gov. Peter Shum­lin that the state will be able “to pro­tect lower-in­come Ver­monters from these cuts” through state fund­ing. At the same time, Sanders said, he could not ig­nore the needs of Ver­mont’s well-known dairy in­dustry.

Passing farm bills has his­tor­ic­ally been an easy and bi­par­tis­an ef­fort, but pro­gress on push­ing this le­gis­la­tion through had been im­peded over dis­agree­ments on food-stamp, dairy, and sug­ar pro­grams, as well as crop in­sur­ance and oth­er as­pects of ag­ri­cul­tur­al policy. The pre­vi­ous farm bill had been tem­por­ar­ily ex­ten­ded dur­ing last year’s fisc­al-cliff deal, but ex­pired at the end of Septem­ber.

Such swift ap­prov­al in Con­gress this time around be­lies how tough of a go it’s been to reach pas­sage. The farm bill un­ex­pec­tedly failed in the House last sum­mer when con­ser­vat­ives voted against it be­cause cuts to the food-stamp pro­gram didn’t go deep enough, while a bloc of lib­er­als voted no be­cause the cuts went too far. This time around, the mo­mentum was there for pas­sage, bolstered by the pro­spect of an­oth­er “dairy cliff” and a spike in milk prices, as well as by the sup­port of a broad range of in­terest groups. 

As with so many as­pects of le­gis­lat­ing, it’s not pretty to watch how the saus­age is made (or in this case, how the corn is grown). Things were so rough that House Ag­ri­cul­ture Com­mit­tee Chair­man Frank Lu­cas had said that if he died dur­ing the fi­nal run-up to the bill, “I want a glass of milk carved on my tomb­stone — be­cause it’s what killed me.” 

Sarah Mimms contributed to this article.
What We're Following See More »
SANS PROOF
NRA Chief: Leftist Protesters Are Paid
2 days ago
UPDATE
NEW TRAVEL BAN COMING SOON
Trump Still on Campaign Rhetoric
2 days ago
UPDATE
“WE’RE CHANGING IT”
Trump Rails On Obamacare
2 days ago
UPDATE

After spending a few minutes re-litigating the Democratic primary, Donald Trump turned his focus to Obamacare. “I inherited a mess, believe me. We also inherited a failed healthcare law that threatens our medical system with absolute and total catastrophe” he said. “I’ve been watching and nobody says it, but Obamacare doesn’t work.” He finished, "so we're going to repeal and replace Obamacare."

FAKE NEWS
Trump Goes After The Media
2 days ago
UPDATE

Donald Trump lobbed his first attack at the “dishonest media” about a minute into his speech, saying that the media would not appropriately cover the standing ovation that he received. “We are fighting the fake news,” he said, before doubling down on his previous claim that the press is “the enemy of the people." However, he made a distinction, saying that he doesn't think all media is the enemy, just the "fake news."

FBI TURNED DOWN REQUEST
Report: Trump Asked FBI to Deny Russia Stories
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"The FBI rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump's associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign, multiple US officials briefed on the matter tell CNN. But a White House official said late Thursday that the request was only made after the FBI indicated to the White House it did not believe the reporting to be accurate."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login