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July 11, 2013
Farm Bill

On Thursday, July 11, 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives passed by a slim vote of 216-208 H.R. 2642, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013. H.R. 2642 is essentially the version of the five-year Farm Bill that the House defeated last month, H.R. 1947, including amendments that passed during debate on that bill and excluding the nutrition part (food stamp) of the bill. H.R. 1947 did not include mandatory funding for energy programs or expanded eligibility for renewable chemicals.

Generally, Democrats voted against H.R. 1947 because they disagreed with the steep cuts to food stamps it included over the next decade. Conversely, many Republicans voted against that bill because they believed the cuts to nutrition programs were not steep enough. House leadership took what turned out to be a successful bet that splitting the bill would remove this major obstacle preventing its passage. All voting Democratic Members voted against H.R. 2642, the "farm-only" Farm Bill, and several charged the House Republican leadership with "sneaking" it through the legislative process. Twelve Republicans voted against H.R. 2642.

The two parts of the Farm Bill have been linked together for decades, and supporters of this link argued that maintaining it was necessary to gain the votes for rural farm programs from urban lawmakers. Also, the leadership of the Senate Majority support linking the two sections, which could make conferencing the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill more difficult. As we have reported, the Senate recently passed its version of the next Farm Bill, S. 954, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013, which funds both farm programs and food stamps. S. 954 contains a strong energy title with nearly $900 million in mandatory funding and expanded eligibility for renewable chemicals.

It is expected that the House will use the "farm-only" Farm Bill passed this week to negotiate in a conference committee with the Senate. Industry advocates are working to ensure the final, enacted version of the next five-year Farm Bill contains the provisions found in the Senate-passed legislation containing mandatory funding for energy programs and expanded eligibility for renewable chemicals.

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