Clearing the decisive hurdle by the narrowest of margins, Republicans in the House of Representatives passed the farm bill by a vote of 216 to 208 on July 11.
Called the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act, the legislation passed without the nutrition title and also repealed permanent law provisions.
Democrats did not cast a single vote in support of the measure.
Besides stripping out the nutrition title programs funding food stamps, the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program and other small nutrition programs, the legislation repeals “permanent law” provisions in the current farm bill that many farm groups supported. Under current law, when a farm bill expires — as will happen this year on Sept. 30 if new legislation is not approved — parts of farm program law would revert back to what existed in 1949 and 1938. That would cause unacceptably steep increases in farm program expenditures and the consumer price of milk and other commodities and motivate lawmakers to enact a new farm bill.
It is unclear how the House version of the farm bill will be combined with the Senate version in conference committee. Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said in remarks on the floor that the House would soon bring the separate nutrition title to the floor for debate. A new version of the farm bill must be passed before Sept. 30, or farm programs from 1949 would become law.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said in a statement that the bill passed by the House was “an insult to rural America.”
“We will go to conference with the bipartisan, comprehensive Farm Bill that was passed in the Senate that not only reforms programs, supports families in need and creates agriculture jobs, but also saves billions more than the extremely flawed House bill,” Stabenow said in the statement.
Ray Gilmer, vice president of issues management and communication for the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association, said United Fresh will work with negotiators in the House and the Senate in hopes of getting a final version of the bill that works for everyone.
“It is not how we would have foreseen that the bill would pass, but at least now we have a farm bill that has passed the House and we can get it to conference,” he said.
House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said in a statement that House Republicans ignored the will of more than 500 organizations seeking to keep the farm bill together. Though Republicans were able to find a way to pass the bill after a June defeat, Peterson said final approval of the farm bill is still in doubt.
“While we were hopeful the farm bill would not be split, nor permanent law repealed, we will now focus our efforts on working with lawmakers to deliver a farm bill to the president’s desk for his signature by September,” Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, Washington, D.C., said in a statement.
Conservative groups were critical that the House didn’t cut some programs even more.
“Rather than take advantage of the blank slate of a split bill to improve the bill’s operation or trim its cost, House Republicans have instead passed a bill that cuts $1 billion less from agriculture programs than the bill passed by Senate Democrats, and $25 billion less than the cuts proposed by the Obama administration,” R Street senior fellow Andrew Moylan said in a news release. R Street is a conservative think tank based in Washington D.C.
Note on correction: The original version of this story incorrectly stated the programs included in the nutrition title the farm bill.