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Farm groups keep up farm bill pressure

Farm country was left in limbo after the U.S. House rejected the farm bill June 20. (OakleyOriginals/Flickr)
Farm country was left in limbo after the U.S. House rejected the farm bill June 20. (OakleyOriginals/Flickr)

In an effort to revive the defeated farm bill, more than 530 organizations, including heavyweights like the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union, have signed a letter (PDF) that urges House Speaker John Boehner to bring the legislation back to the floor.

The U.S. House rejected the farm bill on June 20 by a vote of 234-195, leaving farmers in limbo. The defeat was met with sharp criticism in farm country, especially after the Senate had passed its version of the legislation with bipartisan support, 66-27, two weeks earlier.

Seeking to keep farm interest in the limelight, the letter urged lawmakers to use bipartisan support to pass a bill they called vital to the industry.

“This important legislation supports our nation’s farmers, ranchers, forest owners, food security, natural resources and wildlife habitats, rural communities, and the 16 million Americans whose jobs directly depend on the agriculture industry,” the letter said.

This is the second year in a row that the farm bill died in the House. As a result last year, the 2008 five-year farm bill was extended through Sept. 30, 2013, and some policy analysts have suggested that similar action could occur this year.

Cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the nation’s food stamps program, were a major source of contention in the farm bill debate and arguments over the size of spending reductions sunk the bill. Some lawmakers, such as Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., have since proposed splitting the nutrition policies from the farm bill. But, the 532 organizations that signed the letter sent to Boehner disagree with decoupling the policies.  

“We believe that splitting the nutrition title from the rest of the bill could result in neither farm nor nutrition programs passing, and urge you to move a unified farm bill forward,” the letter said.

The letter contained the signatures of organizations that span the agriculture community, from the National Corn Growers Association and John Deere Crop Insurance to the Environmental Law & Policy Center and The Conservation Fund.  

The future of the farm bill remains uncertain, but farm groups are keeping pressure on Capitol Hill.