October 11, 2013
Saturday Update: The House this morning completed its actions to move on to conference with the Senate to fashion the final version of the new, five-year farm bill. There will be 13 Republican and 10 Democratic conferees:
Republicans – from the Agriculture Committee, Frank Lucas (OK), Mike Rogers (AL), Randy Neugebauer (TX), Michael Conaway (TX), Rick Crawford (AR), Steve King (IA), Austin Scott (GA), Glenn Thompson (PA), Martha Roby (AL), Kristi Noem (SD), Rodney Davis (IL), Jeff Denham (CA), plus, representing the House leadership, Steve Southerland (FL).
Democrats – from the Agriculture Committee, Collin Peterson (MN), Mike McIntyre (NC), Jim Costa (CA), Tim Walz (MN), Kurt Schrader (OR), Jim McGovern (MA), Suzan DelBene (WA), Gloria Negrete McLeod (CA), Filemon Vela (TX), plus, representing the leadership but nonetheless also a member of the Committee, Marcia Fudge (D-OH).
In addition, for select trade and revenue issues, there are a few members of the House Foreign Affairs and Ways and Means Committees that were also designated for just those particular issues.
The House of Representatives approved a rule today to go to conference with the Senate on a new five-year farm bill. We are thrilled to report that the House also passed a “sense of the House” resolution brought by Representative and Budget Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) to support the Durbin-Coburn provision in the Senate-passed farm bill to modestly reduce crop insurance subsidies for millionaires. This sends a resounding message to House conferees that a majority of both the House and Senate support these basic reforms.
While the House is debating and voting on the farm bill-related motions, continued negotiations are taking place in the House, Senate, and White House on the bigger issues of the ongoing government shutdown and the closely approaching debt ceiling crisis. Depending on the particulars of how those showdowns are resolved, it is possible that a final farm bill reported out of a House-Senate conference committee, should it prove possible, would be attached to a broader budget bill in November or December.
Vote to Go to Conference
NSAC urged a yes vote on the motion to go to conference. The House will be taking its re-unified bill to conference, after having combined its earlier farm-only farm bill and nutrition-only farm bill back into a single package. The Senate bill is the same as the Senate passed back in July.
The Senate conferees have been known for a long time. They are:
Democrats – Debbie Stabenow (MI), Patrick Leahy (VT), Tom Harkin (IA), Sherrod Brown (OH), Amy Klobuchar (MN), and Michael Bennet (CO)
Republicans – Thad Cochran (MS), Pat Roberts (KS), Saxby Chambliss (GA), John Boozman (AR), and John Hoeven (ND).
The House conferees, expected to be named tomorrow (though the timing and the names could still change), are:
Republicans – Frank Lucas (OK), Mike Rogers (AL), Randy Neugebauer (TX), Michael Conaway (TX), Rick Crawford (AR), Steve King (IA), Austin Scott (GA), Glenn Thompson (PA), Martha Roby (AL), Kristi Noem (SD), Rodney Davis (IL), Jeff Denham (CA), and possibly Steve Southerland (FL).
Democrats – Not yet announced, though some observers expect it to be the nine most senior Democratic members of the Agriculture Committee.
Steve Southerland, if named, would be the only conferee who is not a member of the Agriculture Committee. His workfare amendment to the SNAP (food stamp) program helped to bring down the House farm bill earlier this year, precipitating the need to vote on two separate farm bills. He also participated in the special non-representative group put together by Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) to develop the nutrition-only farm bill that cut $40 billion from SNAP and included a variety of radical policy changes to the program that appeal to some very conservative members of Congress. His addition to the conference committee, if it happens, is widely seen as a sign that reaching an agreement on SNAP will be very difficult.
Crop Insurance Reform Vote
NSAC strongly supported the Sense of the House resolution brought forward by Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) in support of modest means testing on crop and revenue insurance premium subsidies. It will serve to help inform the conference committee of the size of the vote in the full House in support of targeting crop insurance subsidies.
The Ryan language supports the amendment championed by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) that passed the Senate on a bipartisan basis both last year and again this year. The identical amendment filed in the House by Representatives Richard Hanna (R-NY) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME) was bottled up in the House Rules Committee and was not allowed to come up for debate and vote on the House floor. The Ryan resolution rectified that situation by allowing the House to express its will on the proposition prior to the first meeting of the conferees.
The twice successful bipartisan Coburn-Durbin amendment to the Senate farm bill requires beneficiaries with annual adjusted gross incomes of over $750,000 ($1.5 million for most married couples) to carry slightly more of the cost of their crop insurance premiums, relieving some of the taxpayer’s burden to cover those costs. For most millionaire participants, even with enactment of this reform, the taxpayer will still be covering half or more of the premium on behalf of the insured wealthy farmers or farm investors.
NSAC supports federal crop insurance as a critical part of the farm safety net, but we also believe the program needs to include the same types of means testing, payment limits, actively engaged in farming, and conservation accountability provisions as all other safety net programs include already. Such reforms help ensure taxpayer support is targeted and consistent with the intent of having farm support programs to begin with. The Ryan measure in support of the Senate bill on means testing is one very basic first step among several important measures needed to achieve the necessary reforms.
What’s at Stake in the Farm Bill
For additional news on critical farm bill programs, please follow our blog series on What’s At Stake in the Farm Bill. To date, we have published an overview plus blogs focused on beginning farmers and ranchers and local foods and renewable energy. Still ahead – organic farming provisions, and conservation programs.
Debt and Shutdown Negotiations
The government shutdown continues for an 11th, as Congress and the President continue to negotiate over funding and the debt ceiling. The President met with House leaders yesterday to discuss a Republican proposal to provide a six-week increase in the debt ceiling without providing funding to end the current shutdown. The President, along House and Senate Democrats and many Senate Republicans, oppose the proposal, given that it would not deal with the current government shutdown and that it would provide only a short-term increase in the debt ceiling.
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans meet with the President today, in part to discuss a proposal drafted by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) to reopen the government for some time, raise the debt ceiling, give the Administration flexibility to deal with sequestration over the next two years, and modify revenue aspects of the Affordable Care Act. Wrapped up in the broader debt ceiling, budget and shutdown debate is the fate of farm and food funding in FY 2014 and beyond. We expect additional details to emerge over the next several days as conversations continue.