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House Agriculture Committee Passes Budget Reconciliation Bill, Announced Farm Bill Hearings

April 19, 2012


On Wednesday, April 18, the House Agriculture Committee passed a budget reconciliation bill on a partisan vote that proposes to cut $33.2 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) over ten years.

In its fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget resolution, the House Budget Committee directed the House Agriculture Committee to cut $33.2 billion over ten years from the programs under the Agriculture Committee’s jurisdiction.  The House budget resolution assumptions included a proposed $30 billion cut in commodity subsidies, but the Agriculture Committee chose to take all $33.2 billion from SNAP.  The Senate version of the farm bill that the Senate Agriculture Committee plans to mark up and vote on next week would cut $23 billion, only $ 4 billion of which will be from SNAP.

The Agriculture Committee’s reconciliation bill will be joined with those of six other Committees into a unified package that will go to the House floor in the coming weeks.  The purpose of the cuts to SNAP, Medicaid, social service block grants and other anti-poverty programs is to substitute them for automatic cuts to the Pentagon budget that otherwise kick in next January, cuts that were agreed to as part of last year’s Budget Control Act.

Within agriculture circles, the budget reconciliation bill is widely regarded as a formality that the Agriculture Committee must deal with before it can move on to seriously considering the real farm bill.  It is not expected to become law as the Senate has made it clear they will not take up budget reconciliation bills from the House.  Thus it is being treated by some Agriculture Committee members as something of a paper exercise.  This was made clear in statements by Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), Chair and Ranking Member of the Committee.

According to Chairman Lucas, “This is not the farm bill; this is a process mandated upon us by the Budget Committee.”  He noted that the reconciliation bill is highly unlikely to become law.

Ranking Member Peterson took his commentary a step further, stating, “I would contend this entire process is a waste of time.  It doesn’t mean anything.  The Senate has not agreed to reconciliation and, as you have said Mr. Chairman, the Senate almost certainly will not touch this bill.  The proposal before us is not serious.  You can’t have a serious conversation about getting our budget under control when you take large items like defense off the table, which is really why we’re here.  Taking a meat ax to nutrition programs that feed millions of hard-working families, in an effort to avoid defense cuts, is not a serious way to achieve deficit reduction.  No wonder no one likes Congress.”

Chairman Lucas, in order to drive the point home that the budget reconciliation action is not to be confused with the real farm bill, announced a set of eight farm bill hearings just prior to Wednesday’s action.  The hearing schedule is listed below.

Whether the pivot can be made successfully from a highly-charged political document cutting SNAP benefits to a comprehensive, balanced farm bill remains to be seen.  It is clearly not an ideal context in which to deal with the farm bill, but it does not necessarily have to prove fatal.  There is still time and there are still means by which a 2012 Farm Bill could be completed on time and in a bipartisan manner.  Don’t bet the ranch on it, but don’t rule it out either.

House Farm Bill Hearing Schedule

The hearing schedule will be as follows:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012 – 2:30pm
Subcommittee on Rural Development, Research, Biotechnology, and Foreign Agriculture
Re: Formulation of the 2012 Farm Bill: Rural Development Programs

Thursday, April 26, 2012 – 9:30am
Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry
Re: Formulation of the 2012 Farm Bill: Conservation Programs

Thursday, April 26, 2012 – 2:00pm
Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry
Re: Formulation of the 2012 Farm Bill: Dairy Programs

Tuesday, May 8, 2012 – Time TBD
Subcommittee on Nutrition and Horticulture
Re: Formulation of the 2012 Farm Bill: Nutrition & Specialty Crop Programs

Thursday, May 10, 2012 – Time TBD
Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, and Credit
Re: Formulation of the 2012 Farm Bill: Credit Programs

Wednesday, May 16, 2012 – Time TBD
Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management
Re: Formulation of the 2012 Farm Bill: Commodity Programs & Crop Insurance

Thursday, May 17, 2012 – Time TBD
Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management
Re: Formulation of the 2012 Farm Bill: Commodity Programs & Crop Insurance

Friday, May 18, 2012 – Time TBD
Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry
Re: Formulation of the 2012 Farm Bill: Energy & Forestry Programs


Categories: Budget and Appropriations, Farm Bill, Nutrition & Food Access


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