* Farm groups want new vote as soon as possible
* Splitting bill is recipe for failure, they say
* Conservatives want more farm, food stamp cuts
By Charles Abbott
WASHINGTON, July 2 Hundreds of U.S. farm and
agribusiness groups have urged Republican leaders in the House
of Representatives to try again to pass the $500 billion,
five-year farm bill that suffered an historic and unexpected
defeat in June.
In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner on Tuesday, the
groups asked for a fresh vote as soon as possible. They also
opposed the idea, floated by a faction of fiscally conservative
Republicans, of splitting the bill into two parts.
"We believe that splitting the nutrition title from the rest
of the bill could result in neither farm nor nutrition programs
passing, and urge you to move a unified farm bill forward," said
the letter signed by 532 local, state and national associations
The June 20 vote was the first time the House rejected a
farm bill and an embarrassment for Republican leaders Boehner
and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who supported the bill and
brought it to the House floor expecting it to pass.
Instead, it failed by 39 votes, 234-195, as 62 Tea
Party-influenced Republicans joined 172 Democratic defenders of
food stamps in voting against the bill.
Conservative Republicans wanted deeper cuts in farm programs
and food stamps. Democrats said the bill's $20.5 billion in food
stamp cuts were unacceptably large.
House Republican leaders have not announced their next
steps. If a new farm law is not enacted by Sept. 30, the farm
program will revert to the terms of a 1949 law that calls for
sky-high support rates for certain goods. In one of the most
visible impacts, the price of milk in grocery stores could
Despite opposition from farm groups, Indiana Republican
Marlin Stutzman said this week that the proposal for two
separate bills - one focused on farm subsidies, the other on
food stamps - was far from dead.
"I'm finding a lot of interest in separating the bill,"
Stutzman said. "People are going to be surprised."
In its letter, the agriculture coalition gave Republican
leaders leeway to re-fashion the farm bill if necessary.
It said "strong bipartisan support" was essential for a bill
that meets farm, public nutrition and soil conservation
priorities, and urged a vote "as soon as possible" after the
House reconvenes on July 8.
Some analysts say the most likely result is another
extension of the 2008 farm law.
The farm bill passed by the Senate on June 10 and the
defeated House bill would expand the taxpayer-subsidized crop
insurance system, end a $5 billion-a-year "direct payment
subsidy" to growers and streamline soil conservation programs.
The Senate bill would save $23 billion over 10 years, the
bulk of it from crop subsidies. The House bill would cut $40
billion, half of it from food stamps for the poor.