House Ag Ranking Member Shoots it Straight on Farm Bill
Addressing attendees of the International Sweetener Symposium via telephone conference - House Ag Ranking Member Collin Peterson said states that produce non-commodity crops are going to need to apply pressure for a farm bill to pass. Peterson said an extension wouldn't cover programs important to specialty crops - so pressure needs to come from states like California, Florida, Arizona and New York that are going to lose provisions that were included in the 2008 Farm Bill - but not the extension. Peterson expressed intense frustration with the role of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the farm bill process. In fact - Peterson called Cantor the problem and the reason the farm bill is screwed up. As Congress left Washington for the August recess - House Speaker John Boehner told Peterson he expects to bring the nutrition bill up immediately when the House returns on September 9th, appoint farm bill conferees the next day and finish the bill before the current extension expires on September 30th. But Peterson said the House leadership isn't working in concert - and he doesn't know if Boehner can live up to that timeline.
Then there's the issue of cuts to nutrition. House passage of a nutrition bill with 40-billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - Peterson said - would make conference with the Senate and a vote on the conference report in the House problematic. The Senate only cut food stamps by four-billion. If cuts in the conference report are eight to 10-billion - Peterson doesn't imagine many House Republicans would vote for it. He said that would mean a lot of Democrats would have to vote for it. If the bill stays close to the four-billion dollar Senate cut - Peterson said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has promised to round up Democratic votes. But Peterson isn't even sure Boehner would bring a bill to the floor that isn't supported by a majority of House Republicans.
For the first time in his career - Peterson said - he doesn't know what's going to happen. And Peterson isn't optimistic. He said the likely outcome is an extension. He said that's not a good outcome. Still - Peterson said he and House Ag Committee Chair Frank Lucas aren't giving up. He said they are trying to push things as best they can to get this resolved.
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