As If We Needed It…..Another Hurdle for the Farm Bill

Recall that prior to Congress adjourning for their August recess a stand-off erupted and lasted for two weeks after the House Agriculture Committee approved H.R. 6083, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2012 by a vote of 35-11 on July 12.  House leaders rebuffed calls by the US Senate and agriculture groups to take the Farm Bill to the floor for a vote.  House Leaders held up floor consideration of the Committee-adopted Farm Bill due to sharp disputes over the level of nutrition assistance that comprise 80% of the Farm Bill’s cost.

According to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), House conservatives are seeking additional cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, aka food stamps) and liberals do not like current level of cuts in the committee-adopted Farm Bill.  Without their support the Farm Bill cannot garner the needed 218 votes on the House floor.  *The Senate-adopted version of the Farm Bill cuts SNAP by $4.5 billion (over 10 years). The House version of the Farm Bill will likely cut SNAP by $14 billion.

During the August recess Speaker Boehner allowed House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) to conduct “pro-forma” talks with his U.S. Senate counter-part, Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) on the Farm Bill reauthorization.  According to our sources those pro forma talks have been thus far “non-measurable.”

However, another hurdle for the Farm Bill has been identified and our sources in the House have confirmed it is very credible and “tricky.”

The Senate adopted Farm Bill, (S. 3240 adopted June 21) contains two issues that are deemed in violation of the Origination Clause of the US Constitution. The violations center on the provisions raising revenues. Legislation raising revenue can only originate in the U.S. House.  For more information click on this link to the Congressional Research Service report, “The Origination Clause of the US Constitution: interpretation and Enforcement, March 15, 2011, (link).

One of the issues in question is the WTO cotton case that Cansler Consulting has warned about for months leading up to the debate on the 2012 Farm Bill (see: AND ).  The other issue of concern is the Senate Farm Bill changes the tax code dealing with the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research.

In each case any Member of the House has the option of calling up a “blue-slip (color of the paper) resolution.” The blue slip receives immediate consideration, is debatable and non-amendable.  If the blue slip resolution is adopted, the legislation is sent back to the Senate.

The bottom line is the Senate must fix the blue slip challenge because, as contentious as it has already been, it will indeed be “tricky” to get 435 Members in the US House to cooperate and overcome this challenge.

One way to resolve the challenge has already been proposed.  During the two-week stand-off in July the issue of disaster assistance related to the worst drought in half a Century, forced the US House to adopt HR 6233, (223-197) an Agricultural Disaster Assistance package.  The measure directs the Secretary of Agriculture to make Livestock Indemnity Payments to eligible producers that have suffered livestock death losses and grazing losses due to drought. The Congressional Budget Office scored the disaster package at $383 million.

Upon their return to Washington on September 10, lawmakers in the U.S. Senate could attempt to adopt the House –adopted disaster assistance legislation (H.R. 6233) and incorporate a technically-corrected version of the Senate Farm Bill. If the Senate accomplishes this feat, overcoming several likely procedural hurdles within their chamber, then, once again, it will put matters back in the hands of House leadership who must decide on how they will proceed on the five-year Farm Bill reauthorization.

And did I mention there are only eight legislative days currently scheduled prior to the September 30 expiration of the 2008 Farm Bill?

Cansler Consulting is a certified lobbying practice that is experienced in the multi-faceted and inter-related industries of Agriculture,  Food and Drug Safety, Rural Healthcare, Transportation & Infrastructure, International Trade and Energy.  Through our congressional and regulatory relationships established for over two decades we can help you influence the policy makers on Capitol Hill and navigate the federal budgeting process. You can contact us at or at (202) 220-3150.

Tim Cansler