The House voted this week to reject the new five-year Farm Bill by a vote of 195-234. Our friends at the Nebraska Wildlife Federation have some perspective on the vote and what it means below.
On Thursday, the House of Representatives surprised most observers when a vote to approve a new 5-year Farm Bill failed on a 195-234 vote. Most Democrats voted against the bill; many cited the sharp cuts to nutrition/food stamp programs while others noted the lack of strong conservation provisions. Some Republicans voted against the bill, saying the cuts to nutrition/food stamp programs did not go far enough. The failure of the House to pass a Farm Bill leaves many wondering what comes next.
House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK) said “we are assessing all of our options, but I have no doubt that we will finish our work in the near future and provide the certainty that our farmers, ranchers, and rural constituents need.” Ag Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) was less optimistic, saying “the House adopted a partisan amendment process, playing political games with extreme policies that have no chance of becoming law….I’ll continue to do everything I can to get a farm bill passed but I have a hard time seeing where we go from here.”
Our thanks to Nebraska Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, who offered an amendment to re-link conservation compliance with crop insurance, saving taxpayer dollars by ensuring that to get subsidized crop insurance farmers would again be required to protect wetlands and use soil conservation plans on grassland converted to cropland. Unfortunately the amendment was withdrawn and did not become part of the bill the full House voted on. Rep. Fortenberry also offered a successful amendment to cap commodity payments at $250,000 per farm and close loopholes in current law.
The House failed to approve an amendment by Rep. Blumenaur to require that 20% of Conservation Reserve Program funds be used for Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program contracts, which are high-priority practices like buffer strips, shelter belts, and targeted wildlife habitat. The amendment failed 179-242; Nebraska Rep. Fortenberry voted for it, Reps. Adrian Smith and Lee Terry voted against it.
The Kuster amendments to ensure better funding for wildlife practices as the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program is merged into the Environmental Quality Incentives Program did not come to a vote.
Congress was supposed to pass a new 5-year Farm Bill last year. If Congress fails again to pass a Farm Bill this year, it could leave valuable conservation, energy and other programs underfunded and in limbo while continuing an outdated direct payment system and provisions that encourage farmers to destroy native prairie.
Nebraska Wildlife Federation