The after midnight deal that stopped a national tumble off the “fiscal cliff” also included a nine-month extension of the 2008 farm bill.
Now, Collin Peterson from Minnesota’s seventh congressional district and the ranking Democratic member of the US House Agricultural Committee, outlined what steps he thought necessary for proceeding with developing a new farm bill in this first year of the 113th Congress.
A new five year farm bill failed to pass the 112th Congress. A bill passed out of the House and Senate Agricultural Committees and it passed the Senate with bipartisan support.
The Republican House leadership did not allow the bill to have a vote in the House of Representatives last year.
Fearing the same type of action from the Republican leadership in this session of Congress, Peterson sent a letter to Eric Cantor, the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives.
The letter states he will not even favor working on a farm bill if the Republican leadership does not commit to having the House vote on a farm bill.
Mincing no words, Peterson’s letter says, “Given your long-standing opposition to farm programs and previous farm bills, it was no surprise that there were provisions in the bill that you could not support. But instead of allowing those objections to be aired in an open debate and letting the House “work its will,” the Republican Leadership bottled up the Committee’s farm bill and drafted alternatives in the Speaker’s and Majority Leader’s offices, bypassing both the Chairman and members of the Agriculture Committee and making a mockery of regular order.”
The letter continues, “I heard Leadership’s excuses: that the votes were not there to pass the bill. That is patently false. The Leadership team never conducted a whip count, never asking members whether they would vote for or against the Committee package. I brought together members from both parties to conduct a count, and we found enough votes to pass the bill.
“We now need to look at where we go from here. Let me outline some points as I see it:
“Given the behavior of the Republican Leadership and their treatment of the House Agriculture Committee in the previous Congress, I believe it is only fair for me to ask for a written commitment that your Leadership team will find floor time during this Congress if the Committee marks-up a new five-year farm bill. I would also expect it should not take more than a month for your team to determine the appropriate time for floor consideration and to announce that date publicly.
Page 2 of 2 - Given the Republican Leadership’s objections to farm programs in general, I would not expect your team to bear responsibility for finding the votes to pass the Committee’s farm bill; that would fall upon the Committee. I also understand and can accept that you and your Leadership team would likely want such a bill to come up under an open process, allowing for multiple amendments. I would ask that you let the House “work its will” even if you have personal objections to the outcome. The 2008 Farm Bill was one of the last bills enacted under regular order, where then-Speaker Pelosi formally appointed conferees and allowed me to open the Conference Committee process to the public. I hope you will be willing to make the same commitment.
“At this point, however, I see no reason why the House Agriculture Committee should undertake the fool’s errand to craft another long-term farm bill if the Republican Leadership refuses to give any assurances that our bipartisan work will be considered. You and your Leadership team seem very content with simply extending the 2008 Farm Bill year after year without making any effort at reform, achieving savings and efficiencies, or improving the farm safety net for rural America. If that is your goal, I will certainly accommodate you.”
The recently announced House Agricultural Committee includes two other Democratic members. They are Tim Walz of the second congressional district and Rick Nolan of the eighth congressional district.