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Whittled down Farm Bill passes US House

(Radio Iowa) – Republicans in the U.S. House have passed their own, scaled back version of the Farm Bill today, without any of the nutrition programs that have been included in the legislation for 30 years.

Republican leaders thought the broader version of the Farm Bill — with food stamps included — would pass the House, but it failed in June. Today, House Republicans presented about 20 percent of the original bill — just the stuff about federal farm policy; nothing about food stamps  – and the bill passed, but no Democrat voted for it.

The White House has threatened a veto. Each of Iowa’s four congressmen issued a written statement.

Congressman Bruce Braley, a Democrat from Waterloo, called it a “fake” Farm Bill and noted more than 530 agricultural groups, including the Farm Bureau, opposed “splitting” the Farm Bill. Congressman Dave Loebsack, a Democrat from Iowa City, blasted Republicans for playing “partisan games” and he called today’s action a “step back” for the Farm Bill.

Iowa’s two Republican congressmen voted for the stripped down bill. Congressman Tom Latham, a Republican from Clive, said he was disappointed with the process, but pleased the House was “at least able to pass the agriculture portion.” Congressman Steve King, a Republican from Kiron, said he is disappointed the Farm Bill was split in two, but he celebrated a policy in the bill that did pass — the policy that ends direct payments to farmers.

Current federal farm policy expires September 30. If congress can’t come up with a new Farm Bill, the 1949 law will go into effect — and consumers would quickly see milk prices spike.

The U.S. Senate approved its own version of the Farm Bill last month and it included both federal farm policy and funding for food stamps and other federal nutrition programs, like free- and reduced-price school lunches. It’s unclear how House and Senate negotiators may resolve the impasse.

Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who once served as chairman of the Senate Ag Committee, issued a written statement late this afternoon, blasting House Republicans.

“Their actions today abandon U.S. families who need our help to put food on the table while destroying the time-tested farm bill alliance that has drawn urban votes for agricultural and rural programs,” Harkin said. “This House action is a grave disservice to the entire nation.”

The leader of the Iowa Farm Bureau also expressed displeasure in a written statement issued shortly after today’s vote.

“Repealing permanent farm law leaves little incentive for Congress to complete future bills in a timely fashion.  The House leaders need to understand that removing permanent farm law leaves farmers, and the food they produce, vulnerable,” said Craig Hill, IFBF president.  “The key part of this has been the traditional alliance of nutrition and farm stakeholders, so splitting this weakens the rural voice in this vital debate.”