The House Farm Bill FAILS…What Happens Next?

Written by Andrew McNamee, Director of Government Relations

The farm bill (H.R. 2), which must be passed every five years to authorize agriculture and nutrition programs, was rejected last week in the House of Representatives by a 198-213 vote. As we mentioned in our previous post on the topic, there were international provisions in the bill we support, including elimination of the requirement to “monetize” U.S. commodities provided through Food for Peace. We opposed several domestic provisions of the bill, including a proposal to implement stringent work requirements on recipients with young children. We were hopeful that the harmful provisions could be fixed when the House and Senate worked out the differences between their versions of the legislation (done in what’s called a “conference committee”).

However, Democrats pulled out of farm bill negotiations due to their opposition to new work requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients, meaning that the Speaker of the House had to pass a bill with only Republican votes. We advocated against the inclusion of the SNAP provisions, but they became necessary to passing the bill once Democrats announced their blanket opposition. This gave the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus the leverage to demand a vote on an unrelated immigration measure in exchange for their support. When their demand was rebuffed, the Freedom Caucus joined Democrats to oppose the bill, sinking it.

The real question is, what happens next. The Senate Agriculture Committee is expected to introduce its own farm bill early next month, and Chairman Pat Roberts has said that he “look[s] forward to a bipartisan Senate Farm Bill.” The senior Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Collin Peterson (MN) said that he expects an extension of the 2014 authorization past the September 30 expiration date. House Republicans have pledged to try again to pass the farm bill, and today extended the deadline for them to reconsider the bill to June 22.