Recap of House Consideration of Farm Bill
The Indiana congressional delegation was fairly involved with the Farm Bill and have been making headlines all week. The headline of course is that the farm bill failed. There are significant ramifications on what this vote means for the House leadership. Notably, only one Hoosier Republican, Congressman Marlin Stutzman, voted against the bill on final passage.
Legislator reaction to the failure to pass the farm bill out of the House ranged quite a bit, as we noted in our open item yesterday. In addition to those reactions, the Indiana Farm Bureau openly criticized Congressmen Andre Carson, Stutzman, and Pete Visclosky for their votes against the Farm Bill as well. What is notable is that Stutzman is a long-time member of the Farm Bureau, as he was a farmer by trade before and during his service in the state legislature. Below we have a snippet from each of our Hoosier legislators (that we could find) on their reaction:
Bucshon – I keep in constant contact with my Agriculture Advisory Committee and I consistently hear from them that the status quo is inefficient and unacceptable. Unfortunately, Minority Leader Pelosi and her colleagues refused to support American farmers by blocking this much needed bill. Had the House bill passed, we could have gone to conference with the Senate and agreed to a five year bill on behalf of our citizens. While this bill was not perfect, I supported this conservative measure because it implements commonsense, significant reforms necessary to create stability and certainty for Hoosier farmers and consumers. Source: statement
Messer – I voted for the Farm Bill which cut spending by $40 billion over the next 10 years. The bill would have added needed drug-testing and work requirements in return for receiving food stamps. It also would have made important reforms to farm payment programs to improve the integrity of these programs and save taxpayers money. If a similar bill reforming these programs fails to pass the House by September, we will continue the reckless spending and failed policies of the past. I’m disappointed in (the) result and hope my colleagues will join me in passing these important reforms. Source: shelbynews.com
Stutzman – Hoosiers sent me here to change the way Washington works and I’m pleased that my colleagues have joined me in rejecting the old path of business as usual. While it might have been called a ‘Farm Bill,’ the American people understand that it was anything but. This trillion dollar spending bill is too big and would have passed welfare policy on the backs of farmers. As a fourth-generation farmer, I know first-hand how important the Farm Bill is for farmers but I also know that farm policy and food stamp policy are different. That’s why I am renewing my calls for Congress to have an up-or-down vote to split the Farm Bill into a true, farm-only Farm Bill and a separate food stamp bill. Separate consideration of these policies will allow us to forge ahead with real solutions and reform instead of repeating the mistakes of the past. Let’s get to work. Source: statement
Walorski – I supported this bill because it would have provided a reliable safety net for our family farmers and small businesses, eliminated direct payments, and strengthened crop insurance to allow predictability for our farmers. While this is not a perfect bill, failure to pass a farm bill is a disservice to our farmers, ranchers, producers, and consumers who are in dire need of certainty from Washington. Moving forward, I will keep working to find common ground and bipartisan solutions to make progress on this bill. Source: statement
A bigger question facing the nation is what this means for the current leadership. In the run up to the vote, there were many questions as to whether or not Speaker John Bohner (R-OH) would be able to make it through a tough series of bills kicked off by consideration of the farm bill. Anytime the leadership fails to move legislation through their chamber, you can mark it as a failure. The challenge Bohner faces (along with all Members of Congress) is finding enough common ground to avoid being the stopper. I would wager more farmers are more interested in figuring out what’s happening with the programs that govern their industry, than in the protracted debate about how those programs are administered. The longer it takes the House to figure out what its bargaining position will be with respect to the Senate’s version of the Farm Bill, the longer they are going to be presented as an obstacle to the American farmer.
Neither amendment from the Indiana delegation that was ruled in order by the House Rules Committee passed either. Congresswoman Jackie Walorski proposed an amendment that would continue they stay on applying a tax on the sale of Christmas trees, which failed 197-227. Interestingly, her amenedment attracted attention from all over the country, with the Anniston Statesman in Alabama editorializing about how the War on Christmas is getting entangled in national politics and the Salem Statesman-Journal in Oregon running Maurnee Groppe’s piece covering the Christmas Tree tax quoting growers from Michigan and North Carolina.
The general impetus of the coverage of the amendment was that calling a 15 cent per tree “fee” a tax was silly. Never mind that these growers are likely to pass the cost of this fee on to their customers and that the problem they are trying to solve is that cheap, imported trees from overseas are crowding them out of the market… it’s not clear how imposing a fee or tax or whatever you want to call it is actually going to help. The success of these checkoff programs is mixed, and I’m not sure what we need toward the end of the year are MORE commercials about the more commercial aspects of Christmas.
While a number of amendments were accepted “en bloc” it’s not clear that Congressman Luke Messer’s amendment was ever offered for consideration and it did not appear that it was voted on. I have reached out to Congressman Messer’s press secretary but as it was the weekend I have not yet heard back. We’ll update the post as we learn more.