By Chris Day
CNHI News Service
The House passed a farm bill Thursday.
It was strictly a farm bill. House Republicans stripped funding authorization for food stamps and nutrition programs from the bill. The move angered House Democrats, all of whom voted no. Twelve Republicans voted against the bill, too, but the bill passed 216-208.
The House failed to pass a unified bill in June.
“On that day, a sufficient number of my friends from both sides of the aisle, from different political perspectives united together to say no. ... It was my chin that got bopped and maybe it needed it,” House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas said during his closing statement before Thursday’s vote.
At a Stillwater town hall meeting earlier this month, the Oklahoma Republican said he didn’t like the prospect of removing social nutrition programs and allowing the farm programs to stand alone, but he would do whatever was necessary to protect Oklahoma’s farmers and ranchers.
In the last few days, it became apparent, Lucas said Thursday, that social nutrition programs were too divisive and would prevent the bill from passing.
“I ask you today to vote for a farm bill-farm bill. What an amazing concept. All of you who represent farmers and ranchers — the men and the women that raise the food and fiber who get things done in this country — when you go talk to them will say why didn’t we do that all long,” Lucas said.
The House Agriculture committee will review the nutrition programs and find a bipartisan solution that will be considered on the House floor, Lucas said.
Lucas seemed more positive about the farm bill after Thursday’s vote.
“Today was an important step toward enacting a five-year farm bill this year that gives our farmers and ranchers certainty, provides regulatory relief to small businesses across the country, significantly reduces spending and makes common-sense, market-oriented reforms to agricultural policy,” Lucas said.
The House bill eliminates the long-running practice of making direct payments to farmers regardless of crop yields, market prices or the economy. Instead, producers will participate in crop-insurance programs.
The Senate already has passed a farm bill that includes social nutrition programs. The bills will have to be blended in conference committee.
Lucas said he will work with House and Senate colleagues to put a farm bill on the president’s desk in the coming months.
Day is associate editor of the Stillwater NewsPress.