Congressman Jim Matheson joined a bipartisan group of legislators today who voted against H.R. 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 -- commonly known as the "Farm Bill.' The Farm Bill provides a five year roadmap for a variety of agriculture and nutrition programs and was defeated in the House of Representatives by a vote of 234-195.
"As always, the concept of a long-term legislative plan is preferable to a short-term fix," said Matheson. "We need a Farm Bill for our country but this legislation was among the worst examples of partisan games and special-interest posturing I have seen in Washington. With a massive $500 billion price tag in a time where I think we need to be watching every penny spent, I simply can't understand why taxpayers are being asked to foot a bill that favors increased payouts in the form of special deals, price guarantees, and direct payments."
Matheson said members on both sides of the aisle expressed similar concerns about the expansion of costly farm subsidies, especially at a time when worthy programs are being asked to tighten their belts. A few of these items include more than $9 billion in increased crop subsidies, price guarantees for a wide variety of crops pegged at a high-water mark guaranteeing future need for payment, continuation of $1 billion of direct payments to certain farmers, and the failure of leadership on both sides to consider reform to payment limits, means testing for recipients or disclosure requirements.
Matheson noted that in addition to significant spending increases to programs that heavily favor certain crops, regions and corporate farming, there are disproportionate decreases in conservation programs that help protect drinking water, a vastly important resource in the West, and deep cuts to food assistance for hundreds of thousands of children.
"I am willing to work with anyone on either side of the aisle who wants to have an honest negotiation about agriculture and nutrition policy," said Matheson. "But this bill was a gross overreach and that is why it failed -- increased spending and payouts in tough economic times combined with cuts to environmental protections, food safety standards, water and land conservation, and basic availability of food. That just doesn't make any sense."