August 2, 2013
On July 11th, Republican leaders in the House of Representatives brought forward a farm program only version of the Farm Bill for consideration. The controversial move to split nutrition programs away from the rest of the bill was seen by House leadership as the most likely way to advance farm legislation after the comprehensive bill including nutrition programs was rejected by the House on June 20th. Since that defeat, a number of options were considered, but Republicans settled on stripping the bill of nutrition programs as a way to gain enough support to pass the bill. In addition to dropping nutrition programs, the new version also repeals permanent farm legislation from 1938 and 1949, which have long provided Congress with incentives to pass and/or extend previous Farm Bills. In the end, the House bill prevailed by a strictly partisan vote of 216 to 208. No Democrats voted for the legislation and 12 Republicans broke ranks in opposition. Eleven members of the House did not vote. President Obama has issued a veto statement in opposition of the House bill. The full text of the House bill, along with a summary, can be found on the House Rules Committee website.
House passage of the bill sets up an interesting conference with the Senate, which passed its version of the Farm Bill (including nutrition programs) with bipartisan support in June. The Senate has completed the procedural requirements to move forward with a conference, but the House has not taken action. House leadership has indicated an interest in resolving the question of how to handle nutrition programs before going to a formal conference. Republicans are considering the development of a separate bill to address nutrition programs and have created working group to examine options for moving forward. One of the more controversial plans currently being discussed by this group is the increase of nutrition cuts from the $20 billion included in the original bill to more than double that in a new version. While this would ensure additional votes from the Republican side of the isle, it would also ensure no Democrat support for the measure. One of the more contentious issues from the initial consideration is an amendment authorizing pilot programs to strengthen work requirements for food stamp recipients. Some House Democrats have indicated that they would support the $20 billion in cuts originally included in the House Farm Bill if the work provision was stripped. They see that as a way to get the conference process moving more quickly. As it stands, it appears the earliest that conferees would be named is September, although informal pre-conference discussions are expected during August.
In July 2013, Dr. Ed Knipling announced that he would be retiring from the Agricultural Research Service in early September. Dr. Knipling has served as Administrator of the ARS for the past ten years and his total service to the agency spans over 46 years. During his time with the agency he has been a great advocate for agricultural science and has made significant contributions both as a researcher and administrator. No announcements have been made as to the process and timing regarding the search for a new Administrator.
FASS Washington Representatives Lowell Randel and Walt Smith participated in the 2013 Joint Annual Meeting of ADSA and ASAS in Indianapolis. Lowell and Walt met with the ADSA and ASAS Boards of Directors to discuss the FASS Science Policy Program as well as the latest developments in Washington, DC. Lowell and Walt also addressed participants in the ASAS Business Meeting and spent time in the FASS Booth talking with society members.
FASS joined 46 other animal and commodity organizations in signing a letter to the House and Senate Chairman and Ranking Members of Agriculture Committees asking for their support to include the Farm Animal Agriculture Integrated Research Initiative (FAAIR) in the final version of the 2013 Farm Bill. This Initiative, which has been original included in the Senate version of the bill, is based specifically from the outcomes identified as research priorities during the Farm Animal Integrated Research (FAIR) process conducted last year. While timing for a final version of the Farm Bill is still in question, this letter proved strong support for the inclusion of this provision in the final legislation.