A report from Organic Valley’s Cooperative Affairs Coordinator Katie Peterman… 

House Votes Down Farm Bill

On Thursday, June 20th the Farm Bill took a step backward as the House voted it down – mostly due to divisions in food stamp cuts and the future of agricultural subsidies.  It failed by a vote of 195 to 234 with a breakdown showing 171 Republicans voting Yes and 62 voting No.  The Democrats had 24 voting Yes and and 172 voting No.

How did your legislators vote?

See all states here: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/06/farm-bill-vote-house-93119.html)

So, what’s next?

According to the Organic Trade Association, there appears to be three potential paths forward.

First, Republican leadership in the House could bring a new version of the Farm Bill to the floor, with a new slate of amendments designed to garner additional Republican votes.  (Yesterday, 62 Republicans voted against the Farm Bill.  The Republican caucus could pass a Farm Bill with zero Democrat support, if they can win 47 of those “no” votes.)  House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) alludes to this strategy in this article from The Hill.  If the House does pass a Farm Bill, then the House and Senate passed Farm Bills would proceed to conference later in the summer.

Second, the Senate-passed Farm Bill could be attached to a piece of legislation that must pass the House, such as an appropriations bill, in an attempt to move it through.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) alludes to this strategy in this article from the Wall Street Journal.  Reid said, “We would be happy to go to conference if the House were able to pass its own farm bill, but today’s failure proves that is unlikely to happen. Rural communities and families relying on nutrition assistance should not be held hostage to Republican incompetence. It’s time for Speaker Boehner to take the same approach that has proven successful in the past, and allow the House to pass the bipartisan work of the Senate.”  This is an unlikely path forward, though, because the Senate-passed bill is not palatable to a majority of the House of Representatives.

Third, the House can do nothing, and Congress can yet again allow the Farm Bill to expire at midnight on September 30.  It is likely that Agriculture Committee leaders would then move to a strategy for passing a short-term extension.  As we have discussed before, operating from extension to extension is no way for the United States to craft its agriculture policy.  It keeps uncertainty in the system and is bad for our farmers, our consumers, and our economy.  And, as we know, a number of organic programs were zeroed out in last year’s extension.  If Congress proceeds down this path, we will advocate strongly for the reforms included in the Farm Bill to be included in an extension, and for all programs important to the organic sector to be included.

So… the Farm Bill journey continues.

In Cooperation,

Katie Peterman