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Column - Next Steps for the Farm Bill


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Enactment of a long-term Farm Bill is among my highest priorities. The certainty provided by a five-year bill is critical for Nebraska producers and our agriculture-based economy. After years of deliberation, I was very disappointed the Farm Bill did not pass in the House of Representatives this week.

I thought we would have the votes this year for a bipartisan bill to establish reasonable farm policy and make reforms to reduce spending. Unfortunately, members on both sides of the aisle allowed "the perfect to be the enemy of good," which prevented us from moving the bill to a conference committee.

The reforms included in the House Farm Bill would have reduced spending by more than $40 billion over ten years compared with current policy. For some this cut was too much; for others it was not enough.

Democrats opposed to the House Farm Bill argued against reforms to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps. SNAP spending has increased 105 percent since 2008 when Congress last passed a five-year Farm Bill, and nutrition programs make up about 80 percent of total spending in the bill. Unfortunately, some were unwilling to accept even modest reforms to reduce spending without decreasing benefits for those in need. Only 24 Democrats supported the Farm Bill.

Some Republicans did not think these and other reforms went far enough and joined Democrats in opposition to the bill. I understand their concerns and I also would like to see more done to address spending. However, recognizing the importance of farm policy to our agriculture-based economy, and the difficulty of passing spending cuts through a divided Congress and getting them signed by President Obama -- I believe the House Farm Bill was a reasonable compromise.

While I am disappointed, the House acted its will and it is important we continue to use the legislative process. We now must examine our options to get the bill to a conference committee with the Senate. I remain committed and optimistic we will get a long-term, responsible Farm Bill done, and will continue encouraging my colleagues to do the same.

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