Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) today requested that House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas push harder to get a multi-year Farm Bill to the House floor for an up-or-down vote.
In a letter sent to Lucas, Braley requested that he immediately "report" the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act from the Agriculture Committee. The Committee passed this version of the Farm Bill on July 11th. However, Chairman Lucas has refused to "report" the bill, a crucial procedural step that is necessary before the House can begin consideration of the bill on the floor.
"Iowa farmers need the certainty of a multi-year Farm Bill, especially given the worsening drought," Braley said. "The longer the House waits to vote on a new Farm Bill, the more farmers risk losing the farm safety net when the current Farm Bill expires on September 30th. I urge House leaders to act immediately to allow a vote on the Farm Bill."
House Leadership has refused to take up the FARRM Act, meaning Congress likely will not consider a multi-year Farm Bill before a month-long August recess. Continued delays could allow the Farm Bill to expire on September 30th, meaning the Farm Bill would revert to the outdated 1949 version of the law.
Braley has led the charge to pressure House leadership to allow a vote on the Farm Bill as soon as possible by taking steps to launch a "discharge petition.' If 218 members sign the petition, House Leadership would be forced to hold a vote on the Farm Bill.
Below is the text of Braley's letter to Chairman Lucas:
July 30, 2012
The Honorable Frank Lucas
House Committee on Agriculture
1301 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairman Lucas:
As you know, House Leadership has recently announced they will be bringing up a one-year extension of the Farm Bill this week. While a short-term extension is preferable to no action at all, I have heard serious concerns from many agricultural groups in my state about taking this approach. We need to continue to push for consideration of a multi-year Farm Bill on the House floor.
I was pleased when on July 11th of this year your Committee approved the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act by a vote of 35-11 with bipartisan support. Although I don't agree with all of the provisions in this bill, I was encouraged that there was progress on moving this. I was looking forward to having an open debate on the House Floor on this bill and then having this go to conference to come up with the best language possible.
What concerns me is that although your Committee ordered this bill to be reported almost three weeks ago, the Committee report has yet to be completed. House Rule XIII, clause 2(b), makes it "the duty of the chair of each committee to report or cause to be reported promptly to the House a measure or matter approved by the committee and to take or cause to be taken steps necessary to bring the measure or matter to a vote."
In your July 11th press release on the approval of the FARRM Act, you were quoted as saying, "Today marked an important step forward in the development of the next Farm Bill." I would appreciate an explanation as to why after the passing of almost three weeks, you have yet to fulfill your duty to report this for Floor consideration. While I understand you can't control what Leadership decides to bring up on the House calendar, you can show your commitment to our nation's farmers and ranchers, who need the certainty of a five-year Farm Bill.
The need to extend assistance for farmers gets more urgent every day, given the worsening drought that is blanketing more than half the country. Just like millions of small businesses across the country, farmers need certainty and confidence in the federal programs that affect their lives. In the United States some sixteen million jobs depend on the success of American agriculture, and the Farm Bill has a huge impact in my home state of Iowa. Agriculture and related industries account for one in six jobs there and contribute $72 billion into the state's annual economy. Failure to pass a long-term Farm Bill will have a devastating impact on the agriculture industry.
As the agriculture industry across the country faces the worst drought in decades, I'm particularly concerned that failure to act on a five-year Farm Bill could only exacerbate the current challenges faced by thousands of farmers. Farmers feed our nation, and we need to make sure to provide them the tools they need so that they can continue to deliver safe, affordable food to the table. Every American has a stake in this bill.
Please respond to my office promptly on when the FARRM Act committee report will be released. I stand prepared to work with you in a bipartisan manner to pass a bill that provides long-term certainty.
Member of Congress