Agribusiness lobbyists pretty upset about that farm bill’s failure right about now
posted at 8:31 am on June 21, 2013 by Erika Johnsen
The House version of the farm bill that failed to glean the necessary votes to pass and move to conference with the Senate’s version on Thursday afternoon certainly might not have been the most watched or well-known piece of legislation hanging over the country, but the fact that it was unexpectedly thwarted was quite the dramatic turn of events on Capitol Hill.
The many farm and agribusiness lobbyists who were relying on the bill’s passage to safeguard the status quo and their countless specially interested, pork-tossing programs were shocked — righteously, indignantly shocked, I say! — and plan to continue to press the House leadership so that they can get theirs, dammit, no matter how much market distortion and taxpayer money it costs the American economy and budget. Via The Hill:
“We were shocked. We were watching the vote on TV and in the final minutes were saying ‘what are they doing? This thing isn’t going to pass!” said one commodity group lobbyist.
“I’m shocked,” said another lobbyist. “Our job as agriculture is to go to the House and say Mr. Speaker what is your plan for getting this done?” …
Lawmakers on the House Agriculture Committee were holding calls and frantic closed-door meetings with lobbyists to discuss their next moves, sources said. …
The House bill was heavily backed by commodity groups, from rice and peanut producers in the South to corn, wheat and soy growers in the Midwest to the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union. …
The gloom in the official statements from farm organizations was pervasive.
“Rather than pass a bill that reduces the deficit by $40 billion while meeting the commitments of a farm bill, the country was treated to more Washington dysfunction,” USA Rice Producers’ Group chairwoman Linda Raun said. “Patience in farm country is wearing thin.”
The heart bleeds.
The bill failed because of a number of Republicans’ insistence that the bill needed to make deeper cuts to both certain farm programs and food stamps (which, I would merely add, have grown about 70 percent in less than five years to an $80 billion/year program), which, when combined with a number of Democrats’ intransigence on allowing what they interpreted as too many, too draconian cuts to food stamps (by a little over $2 billion a year and adding work requirements, gasp!), took the bill down.
As one lobbyist put it, “I don’t know how you solve this. If you reduce the food stamp cuts to $16 billion how many Democrats do you gain, how many people do you lose?” One solution might be to end the marriage-of-convenience between food stamps and farm programs so that we can at least have a more transparent and honest debate about the wisdom of federal policy on both, except that neither lobbyists nor many lawmakers would care for that solution — it’s the very omnibus nature of the so-called farm bill that usually helps the farm bill’s spectacular awfulness to speed beneath the radar and garner both urban and rural votes.
After the Senate voted 66 to 27 to pass the Farm Bill two weeks ago, the House rejected the bill 234-195 yesterday. …
A majority of the House Republican Caucus will never vote for any bill that gives citizenship to those illegal immigrants already in the country. The only hope Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, ever had of moving amnesty through the House was on the backs of Democratic votes. After the Farm Bill, House Republican leaders are reassessing that strategy.
“I’d think that Democrats’ decision to sandbag us on the farm bill today makes it obvious how impractical it would be to rely on them for votes on immigration,” a GOP leadership aide told Roll Call.