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Farm Bill May Split After House Defeat

Time is ticking for the farm bill. Current legislation expires September 30, and Majority Leader Harry Reid has warned it will not be extended again.

June 10 Farm Bill Hearing

Photo: Rep. Keith Ellison

Some are blaming the tight budget for Congress's inability to reach a consensus. Others blame agriculture lobbyists for...

After the unexpected defeat of the farm bill in the House of Representatives last month, lawmakers are returning to work after the July 4 holiday.

The question is: Can they reach a consensus before the current law’s September 30 expiration date?

The Urban-Rural Alliance

Since the 1970s, the farm bill has enjoyed bipartisan support from rural and urban lawmakers, who pushed for the agricultural and nutritional support components of the legislation respectively. By bundling pro-farm and anti-poverty programs into a single piece of legislation, advocates for both have been able to secure funding for decades.

In a political climate where talk of balancing the budget is all the rage, however, more conservative members of Congress have proven less inclined to vote for multi-billion dollar programs like crop insurance and food stamps.

Representatives who voted against the farm bill last month were either Republicans who felt the measure did not do enough to cut expenses or Democrats who were unhappy about last-minute additions that would have made it more difficult to procure food stamps.

Agriculture Versus Food Stamps?

Some Republican lawmakers have suggested that the bill be split into two separate parts — an agricultural support part and a nutritional support part — that would each be voted on separately.

But, sensing a threat to pet programs in the absence of an urban-rural trade-off, agricultural and anti-poverty lobbyists alike are pushing hard to keep the bill intact.

Read More:

  • Congress returns to busy July of nominations, student loans, farm bill and immigration (Washington Post)
  • Farm bill support frays amid tight money, shifting alliances (Minnesota Public Radio)
Liz Leslie

Liz Leslie is a journalist based in Chicago. When she's not writing about food, she's likely eating food. Or dreaming about food.

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