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House votes down farm bill

Checkoff amendment pulled from docket.

Krissa Welshans 1

May 18, 2018

4 Min Read
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The U.S. House of Representatives failed to pass the farm bill Friday, after which speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) made a motion to reconsider the vote again at a later time. The final vote was 198-238.

All Democrat votes opposed the bill, and 30 Republicans opposed it as well.

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue issued a statement regarding the initial vote, saying, “A farm bill is necessary to provide our farmers, ranchers, foresters and producers with the stability and predictability they need. Our farmers feed the people of this nation and the world, and they deserve the certainty of a farm bill."

House Agriculture Committee chairman Michael Conaway (R., Texas) said in a statement, “We experienced a setback today after a streak of victories all week. We may be down, but we are not out. We will deliver a strong new farm bill on time, as the President of the United States has called on us to do. Our nation’s farmers and ranchers and rural America deserve nothing less.” 

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson (D., Minn.) said he was willing to come back to the negotiating table and offer the bipartisan approach that has served the agriculture industry well over the years.

“It’s unfortunate the Republicans chose to take this path, and it’s clear from their inability to get the necessary votes from within their own caucus that there are internal fractures they have to contend with, but this is a good opportunity for us to return to the table and fix this bill before we move forward,” Peterson said. “As I said in my remarks Wednesday, this job is too big for one party. Let’s come together and figure out a bill that works for everyone. We don’t have to let this process be held hostage by the demands of the extremes of our parties. We can and should take the time to get the farm bill right.”

Prior to the final vote, amendment number 24, also known as the Brat Blumenauer Checkoff Amendment, which sought to reign in commodity checkoff programs, was pulled.

More than 40 agricultural organizations sent a letter to Conaway and Peterson on Wednesday asking that House members vote against the rider being offered by Reps. Dave Brat (R., Va.) and Earl Blumenauer (D., Ore.).

Among other things, the amendment would prohibit commodity checkoffs and their employees and “agents” from engaging “in any act that may involve a conflict of interest, anticompetitive activity, unfair or deceptive act or practice.” Significantly, it also would prohibit checkoffs from contracting with any entity with an agricultural interest before the federal government.

“Like the other checkoffs, the pork checkoff provides tremendous value to our producers through research on swine diseases, genetics, better production methods and through its pork promotion efforts,” National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) president Jim Heimerl said. “At a time when it seems like everyone is going to the government with his or her hand out, American agriculture, through the checkoffs, is funding its own programs. The checkoffs are funded by producers for producers.”

Amendment 30, offered by Rep. Thomas Massie (R., Ky.), sought to remove existing regulations that prohibit the interstate sale of raw milk for direct human consumption – a development that the coalition of opponents said would have threatened the health of millions of Americans. The Massie amendment failed by a vote of 331-79.

Overwhelming opposition from a strong coalition of dairy farmers, processors, consumer groups, food safety advocates, federal and state public health regulators, the medical community and other key stakeholders led to the defeat.

“We greatly appreciate those who joined the current effort – from dairy producers to dairy processors, state dairy regulators, consumer and food safety groups, state and local dairy organizations, the medical community and veterinarians – and took a stand to oppose this irresponsible amendment that would have significantly compromised food safety,” Jim Mulhern, president and chief executive officer of the National Milk Producers Federation, said.

Dr. Michael Dykes, president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Assn., added, “We appreciate the strong signal sent from the House of Representatives to raw milk advocates who could try to jeopardize public health in the future. We urge all legislators – at both the federal and state levels – who will face similar misguided efforts to follow the exemplary leadership demonstrated today by our nation’s representatives.”

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