Today, Congressman Bill Owens voted against H.R. 2642, a modified version of the Farm Bill introduced last night. The bill passed by a vote of 216-208.
"Farmers who were counting on Congress to give them five years of certainty will not find it in this bill now or in the future," Owens said. "The bill House Leadership brought to the floor today breaks with decades of bipartisan compromise and a longstanding alliance between the farm and nutrition communities that benefits all Americans."
More than 530 groups representing the farm, conservation, credit, rural development and forestry industries from across the nation urged Speaker of the House John Boehner to keep the 2013 Farm Bill intact. House leadership instead chose to ignore the pleas of those most affected by this critically important legislation and removed the nutrition title from the bill, making it nearly impossible to conference with the Senate on a comprehensive reauthorization of farm and nutrition programs.
H.R. 2642 also contains a provision repealing permanent 1949 farm law, which is normally suspended for the life of a new Farm Bill. This suspension is the policy mechanism that forces both parties to the table to negotiate on the Farm Bill every five years. This provision was not included in the bipartisan bills reported out of either the House or Senate Agriculture Committees. The repeal was added last night and its full ramifications are unknown at this point.
Owens expressed concern about the repeal of the permanent law. "As a practical matter, the threat of reverting to permanent law seems to be the only thing left to force Congress to reauthorize farm programs," Owens said. "Dividing the Farm Bill into two parts sets a dangerous precedent. This legislation is too important for farmers, New York's economy, consumers, and the millions of vulnerable seniors, children, and veterans who rely on the SNAP program. They deserve a comprehensive solution, which is long overdue."
Owens has repeatedly called for both parties to compromise on the Farm Bill and has supported reasonable cuts to the SNAP program while continuing to provide certainty for New York's agriculture industry.