US House votes down omnibus farm bill

By Sarah Robinson/NEMS Daily Journal

The U.S. House of Representative rejected the 2013 omnibus farm bill Thursday.
“I am very disappointed,” Rep. Alan Nunnelee, R-Miss., said. “This continues to put us on a fiscal path we cannot sustain.”
The legislation required a simple majority, or 218 votes, to pass, but the vote was 234-195 against.
Nunnelee said a no vote was an example of Democrats’ unwillingness to consider “basic reforms” to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as the federal food stamp program.
Nunnelee said payments to federal entitlement programs would continue but supports for agriculture programs, including crop insurance subsidies, would be suspended if legislation is not enacted by the Sept. 30 deadline.
“The agriculture community and our economy need the certainty that comes with a five-year farm bill,” said U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., the ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.
The vote lacked the full support of House Republicans, with 62 voting against the bill. Twenty-four Democrats and 171 Republicans, including Nunnelee, voted to pass the measure.
Nunnelee said that although he could not speak on anyone’s behalf, he believes Republicans who voted against the bill did so because cuts to the SNAP program were not deep enough.
U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R.-Miss., said, “I am hopeful today’s vote amounts to only a small bump in the road. I believe the House possesses the determination to work out their differences and find a way forward.”
The Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013 passed the Senate 66-27 with bipartisan support on June 10.
The current bill eliminates direct payments to farmers and replaces them with subsides for crop insurance premiums.
Leaders of the House Republicans have struggled to gain party-wide support on the level of cuts to the federal food stamp program.
The House version of the bill called for more than $20 billion from the food stamp program over the next 10 years, while the Senate version called for just more than $4 billion in cuts to the program.
The SNAP program accounts for 75 to 80 percent of the budget, which according to some estimates could cost taxpayers as much as $995 billion.
sarah.robinson@journalinc.com