Welch blasts House farm bill that splits off nutrition programs

The U.S. House on Thursday passed its version of a farm bill, more than a year after the previous farm bill expired. But critics are warning that the bill, which was stripped of the nutrition programs and a dairy price stabilization measure, could be irreconcilable with the full version passed by the Senate.

Rep. Peter Welch talks to small business owners in Burlington on Monday, July 8, 2013, about federal and state health care reform. Photo by Andrew Stein/VTDigger
Rep. Peter Welch talks to small business owners in Burlington on Monday, July 8, 2013, about federal and state health care reform. Photo by Andrew Stein/VTDigger
Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., was one of the representatives who voiced strong opposition on the House floor prior to the bill’s passage, which he and all House Democrats, joined by 12 Republicans, voted against.

“This is not a farm bill. This is a leadership-designed train wreck,” said Welch. “We had a farm bill. It was bipartisan. It saved money. It provided farmers with more security. … It provided conservation, and it’s a way forward. But instead what we have is the result of a failure of the leadership.”

The 216-208 vote in favor of this version of the farm bill follows the defeat on June 20 of a bill that more closely resembled the Senate’s farm bill. That version lost a dairy price stabilization program in a last-minute amendment, but contained nutrition funding at a reduced level, cutting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funding by $20 billion over 10 years (compared to a $4 billion reduction in the Senate version).

In the days since, however, groups such as Americans for Prosperity, funded by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, pushed to split farm and nutrition titles into separate bills, splintering the rural-urban coalitions that have traditionally helped the omnibus agriculture bill gain bipartisan support.

The House-passed bill eliminates proposed dairy stabilization measures and repeals the permanent laws of 1938 and 1949, which contain baseline agricultural prices that would be much higher than they are currently, and have tended to serve as incentives for Congress to pass a new farm bill every five years.

House Democrats in particular protested the removal of nutrition programs, which usually comprise about 80 percent of total farm bill budget allocations. Republican House leaders said that funding could come up in a separate bill later this year.

In a news release, Massachusetts-based New England Farmers Union (NEFU) called the House bill “a bad deal for New England farmers,” decrying the lack of bipartisanship that House leadership expressed in passing the bill.

The bill’s next step is conference committee, and NEFU said it will continue to lobby for a comprehensive farm bill that more closely resembles the Senate version.

“Any final legislation must continue existing permanent law provisions and include meaningful safety-net protections for both family farmers facing difficult times and the food insecure,” NEFU president Roger Noonan said.

Welch’s office said he would work with Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in the coming months to advocate for dairy price stabilization and nutrition funding in the final bill.

“America needs a farm bill, not something that is designed for political consumption and for farm failure,” Welch said Thursday.

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  • Jim Christiansen

    Truth in advertising would label this the “SNAP, Renewable Energy, Land Conservation, Subsidy to Big Ag with a teeny tiny bit of insurance dollars tossed to actual Farmers Bill.”

    Oh, and if you’re afraid of the sky falling, funding for food stamps will continue at current levels after Sept. 30 when congress fails to pass a bill.

    • keith stern

      It’s funny how politicians all act like Chicken Little. The sequester, failure to raise the debt limit, not passing a budget, and now the farm bill were going to cause the sky to fall.
      Welch is a master of posturing while accomplishing little. See how far his ridiculously complicated bill designed to lower college tuition has advanced if he ever introduced it.

  • keith stern

    One bill that can be loaded up with pork versus two separate bills that can contain spending a little more. No surprise which way Welch would go. Keep spending our children’s future away. Your family will be all set anyway.

    • Peter Liston

      The Republican version of the bill is also loaded with pork. It’s pork for agribusiness. It’s filled with hand outs for mulit-millionaires.

      The GOP seems to like pork as long as it goes to people who can return a portion of the money in the form of campaign contributions.

      • keith stern

        Only the GOP? Both parties are loaded with politicians who make sure their big contributors are taken care of. That’s why Obamacare doesn’t have any tort reform in it, so they don’t bite the trial lawyers who supply them with big campaign dollars.
        Look at the abuse and waste in government and forget the partisan BS. That will be more productive.

        • Peter Liston

          Yep. There is corruption of both sides. No question. But when you talk about “Spending our children’s future away” you need to realize that the GOP is exceptional.

          • keith stern

            How about Bernie getting $1 million to put in a hydrogen fueling station in Burlington for 1 vehicle? The big 3 helping VT Law School get a $1.5 million grant to help write environmental laws for China, even though their government is opposed to it? Both parties are bad but the liberals have absolutely no problem spending money the government must borrow to further their misguided ideology.
            California, very Democrat controlled state is one of the highest states in taxes and has an extremely high rate of people living at or below the poverty level where Texas, a Republican controlled state has much lower taxes and has a significantly lower amount of people living at or below the poverty level. Coincidence? Highly doubtful.

        • Dave Stevens

          Hey Keith, I have to agree with you on this. It was disapointing that tort reform wasn’t part of the healthcare picture. If the intent was to lower healthcare costs to make it more widely available, tort reform should have been on the table.

          • keith stern

            Yes, anything to reduce the costs should be on the table still. I believe in health clinics that Bernie is pushing and giving people a portion of money saved when they shop for the lowest price for treatment. Competition leads to better prices.

  • Phyllis North

    The farm bill Welch wants was defeated by the House, with the help of Democrats, so this step actually makes some sense. I do find it odd that food stamps would have made up 80% of the original farm bill. Shouldn’t that be part of a bill covering welfare and other social programs?

  • Harriet Cady

    Has anyone ever thought that ever since the governm,ent became involved in goverrnment grants to grow or not grow instead of allowing market to set price that we have added almost every type of agri, but then look at what Monsanto gets versus the actual farm family? Growing up on a farm I well remember the hard work to make a living with our herd of cows but also remember by growing most of our own food and canning the garden we ate well in comparison to the family who only had a house in town and no land to at least grow their food.

  • David Usher

    The subsidy morass, exemplified by the ‘farm bill,’ is inevitable when government pretends it can do everything for everyone. Has our economy reached the point of failure without government manipulation? So many sectors propped up by government for ‘success’ requires borrowing nearly 40 cents of every dollar spent. That’s a recipe for failure not a healthy economy.

  • keith stern

    If you look at the figures in a vacuum you will see one result but if you look at it realistically you see the truth. Most of those states don’t have high tech industry or financial institutes, etc. to skew the numbers. California has high tech industries and the movie/tv industry to push their average income higher but it still has one of the highest poverty rates in the country. Vermont’s numbers are skewed because of the high percentage of people working in government and the medical field. Take that away and Vermont’s income would be comparatively pretty low.
    Also per capita Vermont is the oldest state in the country because of younger working people leaving because of lack of good paying jobs and high taxes.

    • John Greenberg

      ” California has high tech industries and the movie/tv industry” Why? Why aren’t they in MS? GA? AL? If those states are so great for business, and CA so lousy, why don’t those industries move?

      You obviously can’t dispute Micheal Stevens’s point, so now you’re trying to massage the figures. MS can’t have a ” high percentage of people working in government and the medical field?” Why not?

      This doesn’t pass the laugh test.