Agriculture Policy
12:57 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

Oklahoma Delegation Splits As House Passes Compromise Farm Bill

U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee
Credit Carl Sandburg College / Flickr Creative Commons

The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to pass a five-year farm bill, and Oklahoma's all-Republican House delegation split on the nearly $100 billion-a-year legislation.

The measure included small cuts to the food stamps program, and preserved some farm subsidies. The vote in the House was 251-166.

U.S. Reps. Tom Cole, Frank Lucas and Markwayne Mullin voted in favor of the measure, while U.S. Reps. Jim Bridenstine and James Lankford voted no.

Lucas serves as House Agriculture Committee chairman and has been working on the farm bill since 2011. He called the compromise a "miracle" after years of setbacks.

"This is legislation we can all be proud of because it fulfills the expectations the American people have of us," Lucas said in a statement. "The Agricultural Act contributes major savings to deficit reduction, significant reforms to policy, and yet still provides a safety net not only for the production of American food and fiber, but also to ensure our fellow citizens have enough food to eat."

Cole says the approved farm bill reconciled differences between the House and Senate versions despite competing interests from both sides of the aisle.

"Not only does this bill save taxpayers $23 billion in mandatory federal spending, but adoption of this five-year farm bill also restores certainty to farmers, ranchers and consumers," Cole said in a statement.

Lankford says he opposed the bill because it did not do enough to reform the food stamp program.

The bill now heads to the Senate, which is expected to approve it. President Obama is expected to sign the measure into law.

Here's more from The Associated Press:

"The measure had solid backing from the House GOP leadership, even though it makes smaller cuts to food stamps than they would have liked. The bill would cut about $800 million a year from the $80 billion-a-year program, or around 1 percent. The House had sought a 5 percent cut.

"The legislation would continue to heavily subsidize major crops while eliminating some subsidies and shifting them toward more politically defensible insurance programs."

As Morning Edition reported on Tuesday, lawmakers reached a deal this week on the measure after a two-year stall.

David Wallbank of Bloomberg News told NPR's Steve Inskeep that the divide over the issue pit Republicans, who wanted to see big changes to the food stamp program, against Democrats, who wanted to preserve it.

The compromise bill cuts $8 billion from the food stamps program — a 1 percent reduction.

The other big divide was over agriculture subsidies, which farm groups were trying to preserve even as, in Wallbank's words, "we were eliminating direct payments to farmers."

Wallbank described the new system that's been put into place for farmers.

"Well, the new system is more of an insurance-based safety net. There are some target prices set up in there, but mainly it's an insurance-based system that's designed to, in bad years, help farmers get through them. And it's a much more complex safety net. It's harder to describe than just checks that are going out.

"And that's honestly part of the complication. That's part of why it took so long, is because it's very hard to design a program that works for people growing peanuts in Georgia just as well as it works for people growing corn in Minnesota."

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