House defeats farm bill

The House dealt a surprising defeat yesterday to a five-year, nearly $1 trillion bill regulating farm programs – a blow to Ohio farmers who had hoped for some certainty in federal farm policy but a victory for those who said the bill was an example of a bloated taxpayer waste.

The measure, which covers both federal farm policy and food assistance programs, irritated Democrats because it cut spending for food stamps for low income families. And it irked some conservative Republicans who said it didn’t cut spending enough.

But despite those criticisms, many had expected the bill to ultimately pass. In the end, the bill was defeated on a 195-234 vote. Locally, Reps. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, supported it and Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, and Steve Chabot, R-Cincinnati, voted against it.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-West Chester Twp., who rarely votes because of his leadership position, voted for the bill. In all, 172 Democrats voted against it and 62 Republicans did.

“After promising significant support, congressional Democrats walked away from years of bipartisan work on the Farm Bill at the last minute,” said Brittany Bramell, a spokeswoman for Boehner. “This is a sad day for bipartisanship, and for America’s farmers.”

The defeat surprised farmers who had expected the bill to pass with little controversy. The bill would’ve eliminated direct payments to farmers regardless of market conditions; would’ve cut nearly $40 billion in mandatory funds and would’ve cut food stamps by more than $20 billion.

Tadd Nicholson, executive director of the Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association, said the organization had high hopes that the bill would pass.

“From a farmer’s standpoint, this is not good news,” he said. “It points to an additional one-year extension, which is the fall back position traditionally when they couldn’t get things done in other years. That’s not a good thing. We need long term certainty so farmers can plan.”

Adam Sharp, vice president for public policy at the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, said the vote “surprised” and “disappointed” the organization. He said the bureau liked the bill because it provided “critical” programs like crop insurance and conservation programs.

“We don’t know what the next step is. But one thing’s for sure – we have to pass a farm bill.”

But others applauded the House for opposing the bill.

Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, said the bill would’ve been a boon for special interests and “an unmitigated disaster for taxpayers.”

“The House farm bill was not a deficit reduction bill, but a prime example of business-as-usual Washington,” she said.

Jordan said the bill “missed an opportunity to restrain federal spending in a meaningful way.”

“We still have the opportunity to pass free market reforms to federal farm programs and we can still consider separate nutrition legislation that establishes work requirements and time limits for able bodied individuals to receive food stamps,” he said.

The Senate passed their version of the farm bill last week.

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