Opposition from both liberals and conservatives doomed the house version of the 2013 Farm Bill, which failed by a vote of 195 to 234 on Thursday, with “nay” votes coming from both sides of the aisle. Among House Republicans, 171 voted for the bill while 62 opposed it. As for House Democrats, 24 voted for the bill and 172 against.
Previously, the House Agriculture Committee approved the bill with a largely bipartisan vote of 36 to 10.
In the full House, however, the bill encountered opposition from liberals opposed to its $20.5 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as the Food Stamp program. Some conservatives on the other hand, believe the cuts to the nutrition program, and cuts to various farm programs, did not go deep enough.
The vote drew mixed reactions from agriculture organizations and other groups.
“Passage of a 2013 Farm Bill remains the top priority for NCBA,” says NCBA president Scott George, a dairy and beef producer from Cody, Wyo. “That is why we are extremely disappointed in the failure of many members of the House for not recognizing the importance of a full five-year farm bill. In the midst of the struggling economy, rural America has been one of the few bright spots. This failure by the House places cattlemen and women behind the curve on having agriculture policy which not only provides certainty for producers nationwide, but also incorporates priorities important to the cattle industry.
“We were very close in this legislation to providing disaster programs for our producers, which would have extended disaster assistance for five years and would have covered losses in 2012 and 2013,” George adds. “This was not a perfect bill for any industry, but in the end cattlemen and women made sacrifices in order to support this bill. We expected members of the House to do the same.”
National Farmers Union president Roger Johnson expressed similar sentiment. “With today’s failure to pass a farm bill, the House has let down rural America,” he says. “We are deeply disappointed that the House voted against the best interests of family farmers and rural America.”
Conservative group Heritage Action praised the vote, issuing this statement from CEO Michael A. Needham: “Today is a victory for the taxpayer and the free market. Now is the time for the House to recognize what so many others have: The unholy alliance that has long dominated America’s agriculture and nutrition policy must end.”
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) also welcomed the House of Representatives’ rejection of the proposed bill, but for much different reasons. “Now is time to press the restart button,” said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow. “The House of Representatives defeated a Farm Bill that would have eliminated food assistance for 2 million individuals, many of whom are in working families with children or seniors. Now Congress has the opportunity to debate a serious food policy that aims to feed all Americans, not take food from the hungry. We will continue to work with our partners in Congress and our allied faith and anti-hunger advocates to protect SNAP. We encourage Congress to move forward with a more responsible Farm Bill, one that doesn’t aim to undermine our safety net.”