Ag Policy Blog
Chris Clayton DTN Ag Policy Editor

Friday 06/28/13

Senior Iowa Congressman Hopes for Path Forward on Farm Bill

Rep. Tom Latham, a Republican whose western Iowa district was reshaped due to redistricting, has been a member of Congress from the state since being elected in 1994. In his 19 years and two redistricting cycles, Latham has represented roughly two thirds of the state.

Latham and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey are touring southwest Iowa this week, which gave me a chance to ask Latham what he has been hearing on the farm bill and what direction the debate will go when Congress returns from break next week.

"We're getting input. Everybody wants to get it done, like I do," Latham said Monday. "The Speaker is committed to getting a bill passed in July so that's what we're looking forward to, so we get it through conference in August and get it done in September," Latham said.

The bill failed in a 195-234 vote on June 20 in a vote that is still being analyzed by pundits for its long-term implications. It marked the first time a major farm bill had failed to get a majority vote in the House. The bill drew only 24 Democratic votes while 62 Republicans also voted against final passage.

Some conservatives are floating the idea of dividing nutrition programs from farm policy, believing it could allow more cuts to get a bill passed. Capitol Hill newspapers reported last week that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., is polling members on the possible vote count. Latham said he is concerned about the increased discussion of splitting up the farm bill.

"I'm not sure you pass either section of it, as a stand alone" (bill), Latham said. "I think it would be very difficult to get enough support, certainly for the food stamps by themselves. A lot of the urban folks in the House of Representatives probably would not be supportive of just the farm section of it by itself. So I don't know how you pass it without what used to be the coalition of the urban folks with the food programs and the aggies."

"The reason it is getting some traction is just trying to find a sweet spot on the food stamps and on the ag policy has been difficult with the vote we had so they are looking at all options trying to find a way to move a bill so we can find a way to get to conference," Latham said. "Technically, if you pass the food-stamp portion then you could conference with the Senate on a larger bill with the farm policy also in that."

Latham said he doesn't know what the strategy will be at this point. "There could be changes. The Southerland amendment, we may need to have that removed. There are different ways of going about it, certainly, that would help us get more votes."

The Southerland amendment, backed by Cantor, was offered by Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla. It effectively applies the same work requirements for food stamps that the 1996 welfare reform law applied for direct cash assistance. Southerland won approval for the amendment, but rankled Democrats by also requiring a roll-call vote.

Not having a farm program provides some uncertainty, but Latham said farmers also understand crop insurance is permanently authorized, meaning indemnity payments would not be delayed due to complications completing a farm bill.

Latham said farmers are more expressing more concern about tax policy and possible regulations that could come out of Washington.

Posted at 8:48AM CDT 06/28/13 by Chris Clayton
Comments (1)
Keep Mr. Cantor as far away from the Farm Bill as possible.Go for the money saving non rcourse loan from the past.$5.00 loan price and pay the loan back plus int.or forfit the grain. No LDP and fixed payments .they were put there so that it would not support or raise the price of corn.The current market ing loan of $ 1.85 with LDP is a farce.
Posted by melvin meister at 9:47PM CDT 07/01/13
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