House Leadership Puts FARRM Out to Pasture?
Although the future of the farm bill remains unclear, the leadership of the House of Representatives effectively rejected a proposal by the House Agriculture Committee that would have cut nutrition assistance and environmental programs to help finance lavish new subsidies for the largest farm businesses.
House speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has apparently decided to bring a one-year extension and drought relief package to the floor of the House next week and reject the “Soviet-style” proposal developed by Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and ranking Democrat Collin Peterson (D-Minn.).
As EWG has pointed out, the Lucas-Peterson proposal, called the Federal Agricultural Reform and Risk Management Act (FARRM), was the worst piece of food farm and legislation in decades.
This bill should have never gotten out of the barn. If true, it’s good news Boehner has put the bill out to pasture.
The budget-busting bill would have fed fewer people, done too little to promote healthy diets, and weakened environmental protections. In essence, the Lucas-Peterson bill was Robin Hood in reverse – the bill would have cut SNAP by $16 billion and cut environmental programs by $6 billion to help finance lavish new subsidies for the largest and most successful farm businesses.
Rather than provide a true safety net, the Lucas-Peterson proposal would have given every big subsidized grower a raise -- in the form of higher price guarantees for their crops – at a time when large commercial farms have average household incomes of more than $200,000 a year. And, instead of placing reasonable limits on crop insurance subsidies, the Lucas-Peterson proposal actually expands them – at a cost of more than $9 billion.
What’s more, the bill guts rules that protect water quality and wetlands from pesticides, weakens federal reviews of biotech crops, and undermines the ability of states to set consumer safety or environmental standards.
No wonder Chef Mario Batali, author Michael Pollan and more than 60 other top chefs, food and nutrition experts called on the House to reject the Lucas-Peterson proposal.
As Batali, Pollan and the others noted:
"The House Agriculture Committee has recently approved [a farm bill] that would steer the next five years of national food and agriculture policy in the wrong direction."
Boehner was right to put this bill out to pasture.
But the Speaker should also emphatically reject efforts to allow the farm lobby to bypass a full and fair debate on the floor of the House.
Some farm lobbyists and legislators hope to conference a simple one-year extension of the current farm bill with the new farm bill already approved by the Senate – and bypass the floor of the House.
This cynical bait-and-switch would deny House subsidy reform champions their chance to offer long overdue reform amendments with broad bipartisan support. A conference agreement developed by the House and Senate agriculture committees could not be amended.
Bypassing floor debate on a $1 trillion farm bill that increases subsidies for the biggest farm businesses and weakens environmental protections runs counter the “honest debate” and “fair and open process” he pledged to provide when he took the gavel last year.
To his credit, Boehner has always voted against bad farm bills, and he was right to reject the worst one in decades. He should also reject efforts to pass a farm bill that hasn’t been considered by the full House.