Last Thursday, the House of Representatives rejected its version of a five-year Farm Bill by a vote of 195-234. Insightful analysis can be found in articles from The Hill, Politico, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Republican leaders point to the fact that Democrats mustered only 24 votes for the bill; Democratic leaders note that 62 Republicans voted against the bill, and the bill was amended in ways many Democrats could not support. There appear to be four potential paths forward:
- Republican leadership in the House could bring a new version of the Farm Bill to the floor, with a new slate of amendments designed to garner additional Republican votes. If the House does pass a Farm Bill, the House and Senate passed Farm Bills would proceed to conference later in the summer.
- Congress could proceed to conference with only the Senate Farm Bill. This happens very rarely, and is unlikely to be a path forward that will be supported by members of the House.
- The Senate-passed Farm Bill could be attached to a piece of legislation that must pass the House, such as an appropriations bill, in an attempt to move it through. This is also an unlikely path.
- The House could do nothing, and Congress could again allow the Farm Bill to expire at midnight Sept. 30. It is likely that Agriculture Committee leaders would then move to a strategy for passing a short-term extension. However, operating from extension to extension is no way to craft U.S. agriculture policy. It keeps uncertainty in the system and is bad for farmers, consumers, and the economy. A number of organic programs were zeroed out in last year’s extension. If Congress proceeds down this path, we will advocate strongly that the reforms in the Farm Bill and all programs important to the organic sector be included in an extension.
Stay tuned to OTA’s Government Affairs Forum for updates. Marni Karlin, OTA’s Director of Legislative and Legal Affairs, expects to have a better sense of what path Congress will take in the coming week.