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CQ Roll Call | More Attacks on Farm Policy Expected in House Spending Bill Debate

July 1, 2013
In The News

More Attacks on Farm Policy Expected in House Spending Bill Debate
By Ellyn Ferguson | CQ Roll Call | July 1, 2013



Farm groups are bracing for a new round of attacks on agricultural subsidies and crop insurance when the Agriculture appropriations bill hits the House floor, possibly this month.

Late last week, groups circulated a draft letter that would urge House members to “strongly oppose any amendments that would alter the fundamental policies” in existing farm programs in the fiscal 2014 agriculture spending measure (HR 2410). “This [bill] is not the right place to be doing legislation” on farm programs, said Dale Moore, executive director of public policy for the American Farm Bureau Federation.

The House has adopted an open rule for the measure but has not announced when it will take up the bill. Agriculture Committee leaders are engaged in maneuvering that some view as designed to keep the spending bill in limbo until lawmakers vote on a new version of the farm bill, which was defeated June 20 in a surprising 195-234 vote.

On the spending measure, Rep. Ron Kind, a Wisconsin Democrat, is expected to propose changes to farm programs that agriculture organizations and their allies oppose. Kind, during the farm bill debate, lost a surprisingly close vote on a broad amendment that would have slashed the federal crop insurance program.

He will have at least two amendments for the appropriations bill that likely will worry agribusiness interests. One amendment, he said in an interview, would seek to end the $147 million annual payment that the  Obama administration has been making to Brazil to deter it from retaliating against American exports over U.S. cotton subsidies. “If the average taxpayer knew that was going on, they’d go crazy,” Kind said. “That’s what the farm bill is doing to us. It’s tying us in knots, so that we’re subsidizing foreign farmers because of our inability or unwillingness to reform our own cotton program.”

Another Kind amendment would cut off subsidies, including insurance premium subsidies, to individuals with adjusted gross incomes exceeding $250,000. Kind included a $250,000 AGI means test in his proposed amendment to the farm bill. The amendment failed 208-217.

If the House adopts appropriations amendments like those by Kind, supporters are likely to portray them as messages that House and Senate negotiators should heed in producing a final farm bill. Moore of the Farm Bureau noted, however, that a House-Senate conference committee on the farm bill would be comprised of members from the House and Senate agriculture committees. “One has to keep in mind that it’s aggies that are writing the conference report. I’m pretty certain Mr. Kind won’t be one of the conferees,” Moore said.

Sam Farr, ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, says he expects lawmakers to re-fight some of the policy issues raised by the farm bill when the 2014 spending measure reaches the floor.”We could have a big fight on the floor for all the reasons the farm bill did,” Farr of California said.

The nutrition fight would likely center on the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program rather than the SNAP program that divided lawmakers on the farm bill, Farr of California said. The program would be  a rallying point for Democrats because the House bill proposes $6.7 billion to meet projected case load demand, a $214 million reduction from fiscal 2013.

The Senate bill (S 1244) would provide $7 billion, an increase of $215 million from fiscal 2013. The differences between the bills reflects the standoff between the Democratic Senate, which is writing spending bills based on a $1.058 trillion target for fiscal 2014 discretionary spending, and the Republican House, which is pegging its appropriations bills to a $967 billion cap.

Meanwhile, House Agriculture Chairman Frank D. Lucas alerted the Rules Committee by letter that he might challenge more than $700 million in reductions made to mandatory spending. Appropriators commonly use the practice, known as changes in mandatory program spending (CHIMPS), to meet their spending caps.

Lucas’ action is viewed by some a maneuver to keep the spending bill off the floor until the House can address the farm bill again.

Robert B. Aderholt, chairman of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, said Lucas, R-Okla., is acting in the best interests of his committee. “Chairman Lucas wants to get his authorizing bill out. Chairman Rogers wants to get an appropriations bill out. I’m sure that Chairman Lucas may be using any leverage he can to get his authorizing bill out,” Aderholt, R-Ala., said. He said he has not spoken with Lucas, but said the Agriculture chairman has been dealing with Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky. If Lucas successfully pursues his point of order, Aderholt said an across-the-board cut in the bill of perhaps less than 1 percent might be necessary to adjust for the loss of savings.