The terminal date for the 2008 Farm Bill, September 30, 2012, passed as the House of Representatives failed to bring the legislation reported out by its own Agriculture Committee to the floor for a vote—each party hoped that the fall 2012 elections would give it enough additional votes to pass a replacement farm bill without support from the other party.
When the new Congress convened on January 23, 2013 in Washington, DC, it was clear that the one-year partial extension of the 2008 Farm Bill the 112th Congress had adopted in its waning hours was little more than kicking the can down the road. The 113th Congress—more specifically the House of Representatives with a smaller, not larger, majority—would be left trying to hammer out a piece of farm legislation that could garner enough votes to send it to conference with the Senate.
The areas of disagreement within the House were clear and for the most part they dealt with money: how large would the cuts be to farm and conservation programs on the one hand and nutrition programs on the other; what would be done to provide Southern crops with the same level of protection afforded Northern crops like corn and soybeans; would conservation compliance be linked to the subsidization of crop insurance; would crop insurance subsidies be subject to payment limitations; and would the dairy program be one that favored the large processors or one that protected small- to medium-sized producers.
The path to this point began when the Senate did its work and once again threaded the needle with sufficient deftness to garner a strong bi-partisan vote—they adopted a farm bill in 2012 that languished when the House failed to act on the draft farm legislation reported out by its Agriculture committee.
Once again the House Agriculture Committee did its work, reporting out a bill. Under pressure, the House Republican leadership put it up for amendments and a vote. The Ranking Member of the Ag Committee, Colin Peterson, indicated that he could deliver 40 Democratic votes if the Republicans could provide the rest.
But, it was not to be. Amendments that increased budget cuts to the nutrition programs, imposed work requirements on the receipt of nutrition program benefits, and changed the dairy program made it so unpalatable that Peterson could only deliver 24 Democratic votes while 62 Republicans voted no. Some of the Republicans who voted no on the farm bill voted yes on the amendments that lost Democratic votes.