Ag Policy Blog
Chris Clayton DTN Ag Policy Editor

Monday 07/01/13

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 6:05PM CDT 07/01/13 by Chris Clayton
Comments (8)
It's very disheartening to experience the lack of leadership from our current Speaker of the House.As a farmer,we can hope that the incumbent Speaker of the House will "Lead,follow,or get the hell out of the way".
Posted by W Lee Deutsche at 11:28AM CDT 07/02/13
HUH?? Now we are crying to try to get the food stampers to carry us to the golden trough! TWO WRONGS DO NOT MAKE A RIGHT.....If neither SNAP nor the farm bill can stand alone you know they both need extreme cuts or elimination. Is our country so rich that we can throw away billions of dollars on wasteful programs??
Posted by Bill Billson at 1:30PM CDT 07/02/13
Bill, With all your rhetoric, you finally made sense.
Posted by Bonnie Dukowitz at 3:24PM CDT 07/02/13
Some people have short memories. In the mid-1990's we had three good years of rising prices (94-96) and the 1996 Farm Bill, called Freedom to Farm, was passed with the idea of eliminating much of the farm support with transitional "direct payments." By the late 90's a combination of rising grain inventory, falling prices, and, not incidentally, a continually strengthening US dollar had farmers living from one "disaster bill" to another. I was working with ND Ag Mediation at that time and saw the impact of this first hand. A gut wrenching emptying of many of ND's rural counties took place. CRP was expanded and I helped several families "save the family farm" by renting their land out to the government to make the payments on debt consolidation loans secured by real estate. But that doesn't do much for the rest of the community. The Farm Bill needs some more trimming. The Cotton, Rice, and Peanut farmers in particular have cut some pretty good deals in negotiations giving them much better price support than the rest of us. The Conservation programs that truly benefit society have been consolidated, which is good, but also cut, which is not so good. The proposed "shallow loss" programs need to be revamped into a combo of SURE and ACRE, which were whole farm yield and price loss programs. The conservatives are hell-bent on totally removing the farm bill from the pages of history. If they do that, then the reliable red middle states will surely go Democrat in 2014 and Eric Cantor will be the minority leader of a very small minority. And President Obama will have free reign to finish out his last two years in office as he wishes.
Posted by LeeFarms at 7:31AM CDT 07/03/13
So to insure their reelection conservatives should continue to flush billions down crop insurance farm program rat holes? Sounds like a great plan for convincing many conservative to stay home at election time. Targeting the wealthiest with millions annually in benefits has done a great job of removing conservatives voters from the country. It's not just the cotton, rice and peanut farmers that are loading up at the federal trough.
Posted by John Olson at 8:21AM CDT 07/03/13
The party of TEA is doing what it pledged,,,, bring down the government. Thats all they wish to do, say no until it is gone.
Posted by Jay Mcginnis at 9:08AM CDT 07/03/13
You are all confused Jay. TEA party is interested in restoring government. Obama is interested in changing our government. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrefKCaV8m4
Posted by John Olson at 2:38PM CDT 07/03/13
Try informing yourself Jay - see http://www.tpnn.com/
Posted by John Olson at 1:01PM CDT 07/04/13
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