They did it. On Thursday, July 11, 2013, the US House of Representatives passed an agriculture-only farm bill on a mostly 216-208 party-line vote—all of the Democrats voted “no” along with 12 Republicans. Just what that will mean for a conference committee with the Senate, whose bill includes a nutrition title, is unclear at this time. In addition to eliminating the nutrition title, the House bill eliminates the 1938 and 1949 farm bills as permanent legislation. Just this last January, the possibility of reverting to the permanent legislation if the 112th Congress did not adopt a farm bill forced a last minute partial one-year extension of the 2008 Farm Bill.
Rather than speculate about what Congress might do with respect to farm and nutrition policy, we want to share four reactions to the actions of the House.
In response to the House vote, the White House Office of Management and Budget released a Statement of Administration Policy that reads, “the Administration strongly opposes H.R. 2642, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013…. The 608 page bill…does not contain sufficient commodity and crop insurance reforms and does not invest in renewable energy, an important source of jobs and economic growth in rural communities across the country. Legislation as important as a Farm Bill should be constructed in a comprehensive approach that helps strengthen all aspects of the Nation.
“This bill also fails to reauthorize nutrition programs, which benefit millions of Americans—in rural, suburban and urban areas alike. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is a cornerstone of our nation’s food assistance safety net, and should not be left behind as the rest of the Farm Bill advances.
“If the President were presented with H.R. 2642, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.”
Michael Dimock takes a different perspective from his colleagues on the California Food Policy Council who fear that splitting the farm bill in two will sink support for the nutrition title. He writes (http://civileats.com/2013/07/12/a-game-changer-for-the-farm-bill-and-snap/), “they miss the fact that it signals an end to an old alliance that kept change from happening. Without that roadblock, a united food movement may be able to push for farm and food policies that will actually support food justice, rural renewal, human health and community resilience instead of lining the pockets of the nation’s most powerful factory farms and food corporations….