WASHINGTON, June 26, 2013 – House Republicans gathered today to seek a way forward after the spectacular failure of the five-year farm bill (H.R. 1947) last week.
While no firm plan has been set, the discussion indicates that House Republicans are intently interested in finding a way to get the bill approved this year.
“We had a very lively discussion in conference,” said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., after the meeting. “We’re having a very lively discussion in leadership. Clearly, we need to get something done. I want to get something done, I think they want to get something done, and I’m still calming down. We’ll get something done.”
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, third-ranking Republican member of the House Agriculture Committee, said – with tongue planted firmly in cheek – that he brought up the farm bill “just gently” during the meeting
“A consensus is forming on the need to find a solution,” King said. “I guess you can call that progress.”
He said he plans to meet with Lucas during the July 4 recess and talk “in depth on this thing and really plan a strategy”
King said he hopes to have the same conversation with ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., over the break.
On the farm bill’s failure, King said, “For some Republicans, it was pretty simple to say ‘I don’t support any subsidy’ and they don’t go on to the next piece of the equation, which is voting ‘no’ on the farm bill supports a lot of subsidy because we reform a lot of subsidy. That realization will start to settle in better.”
Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., said he pushed his proposal, during the meeting, to separate the food stamp provisions from the farm policy provisions into two bills.
“I would vote for both bills,” Stutzman said, noting he will continue to oppose any farm bill that includes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
“This is not a conservative or liberal position,” Stutzman said. “It’s just good government.”
Stutzman said he believes about 60 Republicans voted against the bill mainly because they want SNAP removed from the farm bill.
“I have already identified at least a dozen,” he said. “There seems to be populous movement behind it. I didn’t have one person back home telling me I did the wrong thing.”
Removing the SNAP program from the farm bill, however, is a complete non-starter in both chambers of Congress.
“Splitting the bill means not having a bill and that’s least acceptable option,” Lucas said. “Everything else is on the table and we’re working on scenarios. We’ll sort it out.”
Separately, Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., told Agri-Pulse today an agreement was reached about the importance to proceed and work toward a new farm bill, but how to accomplish passage is still up in the air.
“I’ve had conversations with every member of our leadership team, and I know that they all tell me that they want to get a farm bill done,” Noem said. “So we’re going to continue to push on that and get one done. Sooner rather than later would be better for everybody.”
In reaction to three Democrats introducing the Senate farm bill in the House, Noem said she feels more comfortable with the version that came out of the House Agriculture Committee.
“I’m not crazy about the commodity title in the Senate bill, plus it doesn’t have quite the savings and reforms to the food stamp program that our bill did,” Noem said. “I would be much more supportive of our version of the bill. I’m not certain the Senate bill could get the votes on the floor to pass.”
Noem encouraged Lucas and Peterson to include leadership on discussions involving the future of the farm bill.
“I think that the chairman and [Peterson] have worked together very well,” Noem said of the committee’s leadership. “I think they have some agreement, but I think they also need to draw the leadership teams in on that conversation and see where they think most of their members are and craft a bill going from there.”